This post comes to us courtesy of writer and Williams-Sonoma creative consultant Laura Martin Bacon.
Now that kids are back in school, keeping their energetic brains and bodies fueled means coming up with healthy, grab-and-go snacks they’ll actually eat.
For expert advice, I turn to Southern California kids’ cooking teacher Lisa Fontanesi. Her solution: transform snack-making into a kid-friendly adventure.
Lisa suggests getting kids in on the action early by inviting them on a healthy shopping expedition. The mission: find fun, nutritious ingredients to create your own custom snack mixes.
My niece Sarah eagerly accepts the challenge, cruising around her favorite natural foods grocery store with the cheerful stealth and cunning of a hungry little barracuda.
With Lisa’s Monkey Mix recipe (below) as her guide, Sarah trolls the bulk bins – eclectic home to everything from chocolate chips and yogurt-covered raisins to roasted edamame and dried apricots.
You can tell from her enthusiasm that, when it comes to snacking, much of the thrill is in the hunting and gathering. Back home, Sarah gleefully unpacks her ingredients and dumps them into prep bowls – then begins her exuberant measuring, mixing and bagging.
She’s convinced her culinary ingenuity will prevail in concocting a signature snack that she, her sisters and all their friends will love. It turns out she’s right.
Sarah says that creating her own custom mix “makes me happy because I get to do it all myself – and it’s really yummy!”
Her sister Lauren also gives Monkey Mix a big (opposable) thumbs up: “It looks great, has lots of taste and crunch — and just a little chocolate gives it a lot of pizzazz.”
As for the idea of kids making their own snacks, Lauren observes: “I like choosing what I eat ’cause sometimes when one of my parents makes me a snack, I don’t like it. When I choose it, I like it!”
Sarah and Lauren’s buddy Abby says: “I really want to eat this because it looks so good — it’s pretty and has all these colors that make it unique and cool. Plus, it makes me feel happy, healthy and energized.”
As proof, everyone fuels up on the mix, then heads out to the backyard trampoline for a bounce-fest before moving indoors to tackle the day’s homework.
The kids’ consensus: “When you make ‘em yourself, healthy snacks are even MORE fun than a barrel of monkeys!”
Make-It-Yourself Monkey Mix
Recipe courtesy of Lisa Fontanesi, Kidding Around the Kitchen
This is a great grab-and-go snack that’s perfect for any time of day. The ingredients and proportions below are just a guide – feel free to make your Monkey Mix with whatever you have on hand (and whatever healthy stuff you like).
1 1/4 cups dried banana chips
2 cups dried fruit, preferably unsweetened (any combo of mango, papaya, cranberries, raisins, cherries and/or diced apricots)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (or your favorite nuts)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or roasted edamame)
1/4 cup dried coconut (if you like it)
1/4 cup cheerios or any healthy wholegrain cereal (or add crunch with plain popcorn)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (a tasty substitute for bugs!)
Combine your favorite ingredients in a large bowl and mix them up.
Keep your Monkey Mix in a large Ziploc bag or airtight container – and grab a handful whenever you need an energy boost. For an easy on-the-go snack, divide the mix into single servings and stow them in small Ziploc bags or individual containers.
Fuel up, feel great – and have fun! Makes about 4 1/2 cups.
About the author: Laura is a longtime writer and creative consultant for Williams-Sonoma and other well-known entities. She’s also the Culinary Creative Director of DooF (“food” backwards), an organization that uses multi-media entertainment, education and live events to help kids and families discover the magic of food. DooF explores every aspect of food – from flavors, history, science and cultural traditions to the exciting journey from source-to-table. Laura’s mission: to make good food fun – at home, in the classroom and beyond.