We are off to Philadelphia for a family reunion on Thursday morning, and I can't wait. I actually find preparing for a trip very fulfilling - the planning, the packing, and in our case, the snack-making! Even before I had children, I really liked bringing my own food when travelling, especially on planes (particularly during my vegan days). With kids along, it's so important to have snacks with you, because there often isn't time or energy to find a place to buy food. In addition, it's cheaper, more fun, and typically more nutritionally sound to make your own!
Travelling or not, one of my most oft-made recipes is the Almond Date Breakfast Bars from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. (This cookbook is in such heavy rotation in our kitchen that the spine is torn.) I adapt them heavily, usually in a different way every time I make them, and the recipe is so solid that it can handle such changes. Maybe it's me, but I uniformly find commercial granola bars - even the 'natural' and organic kinds - to be A) Too Sweet and B) Too Dry. Not these. And while they are a great snack while in transit, another thing I love to have up my sleeve when away from home with two preschoolers is something to eat before everyone else wakes up/before the hotel breakfast is served. These bars are ace for that.
Muffins are perhaps the most popular item to make with kids, and there are so (SO!) many great recipes out there. The ones we made today are from another favourite cookbook, The Family Cooks. Both these and the bars have whole grain flours, unrefined sweeteners, fruit and nuts, all of which will help fill your kids and keep them from becoming too hyper...you can blame the excitement of going on an airplane for that!
For when you're on a plane (or in a train or a car), here are a few ideas for other yummy, nutritionally dense, non-messy snacks to add to your roster:
apple chips in Halifax, you can find these at Local Source Market and The Grainery
Babybel cheese we buy this only on trips, and the kids looks forward to it for months
nori seaweed I buy sushi-sized sheets and cut them in four
raw nuts or seeds and dried fruit almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dates, or apricots
These recipes are good ones for involving kids - lots of mixing! My two (ages 3 and almost 5) also loved pushing the bars down in the pan and dolloping the muffin mixture in the tins. Things get messy and they want to eat the batter and all the chocolate chips, but hey....that's how it goes...! (Tip: don't put in chocolate chips)
Almond-Date Breakfast Bars
Adapted heavily from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup dried pitted dates or dried prunes
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup plus 3 Tbsp spelt, whole-wheat, or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, chopped pecans, or chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
Zest from one orange
1/4 tsp vanilla or almond extract
Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8-by-8-by-2-inch pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing the paper to go up the opposing sides. Do the same in the opposite direction. This parchment “sling” makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan in one piece.
Soak the dates in about 2 cups boiling water for about 10 minutes, then drain and chop. (If using prunes, no need for this step). Stir together the dates, oats, flour, almonds, salt, and cinnamon in the bottom of a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the nut butter, olive oil, honey or maple syrup, orange zest, and extract until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture, and stir them together until the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, pressing the mixture firmly and evenly onto the bottom, edges, and corners of the pan.
Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are brown around the edges – don’t be afraid to get a little colour on the tops. They’ll still seem soft and almost under baked when you press into the centre of the pan, but don't worry – they’ll set once completely cool.
Cool the bars in their pan, on a cooling rack. Once they’re cool, remove the bars in one piece from the pan, and use a serrated knife to cut the bars into 12 squares.
Banana Muffins adapted from The Family Cooks
3-4 bananas, very ripe
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup olive oil
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup honey (depending on ripeness of bananas)
1½ cups spelt or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips or toasted walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 12 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners or oil well.
In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher or fork. Add the egg, oil, and honey and stir to combine. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the remaining ingredients. Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes.