Cooks’ Exchange: Sweet ideas for after-school

September 20, 2018

A few weeks ago, while reading a newspaper from another state, I noticed a column including interviews with mothers sharing tips about motivating school age children to get ready with a smile before leaving for school. Remembering my own school days got me to thinking about ways to help everyone happily get on their way to school, and here’s just a short list of possibilities.

For starters, make a checklist for a student to follow each morning. Having a clock with a double alarm makes sense, too. With all the different fabrics available today, some suggest allowing a child to sleep in the clothes he or she would wear to school the next day. And, why not serve breakfast in bed on a tray to make sure they eat before leaving unfed and in a hurry? Or, if someone isn’t in a good mood, allowing a few extra minutes to play a video game might be a good idea before saying goodbye.

On the sweet side, how about filling a reward jar on a the basis of how well each morning went and appreciating the contents together at the end of the week?

Reflections of my own childhood school days simply began with a glass of orange juice, a bowl of favorite cereal (there were only four or five different kinds back then), and a piece of raisin toast. If temperatures plummeted during the night, warms bowls of Cream of Wheat or oatmeal were served.

By 7:15 a.m. it was time to wash my face, brush my teeth, and comb my hair before getting dressed for school, knowing when I’d return hours later, freshly baked banana bread, muffins, or cookies would be waiting for me as an after-school treat. I wasn’t being spoiled because that’s just the way it was back then.

Quick after school treats can be simple. The Martha Stewart “Everyday Food” publications from 2005, 2006, and 2008 found at an estate sale recently came in handy with after-school snack recipes. While deciding to explore what each offered, it reminded me of an oatmeal cookie recipe I clipped back in 2008 and marked as being “excellent” in an August/September “Cooking Club” magazine. Read my notes at the end of the recipe to see what other possibilities await something new and exciting from your own kitchen.

Oatmeal trail mix cookies

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon dark rum or orange juice

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats

¾ cup mixed dried fruit

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

½ cup sweetened flaked coconut

1/3 cup roasted salted peanuts

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl at medium-high speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, rum and vanilla until smooth. At low speed beat in flour mixture. Stir in all remaining ingredients. Dough will be very stiff. Drop dough by 1 ½ tablespoons on baking sheets 2-3 inches apart and bake 8 to 11 minutes or until golden brown and set (mine took 11 minutes to bake). Cool completely on wire rack. Cookies can be made 3 days ahead. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Note: Instead of ¾ cup mixed dried fruit, I used a 1 ounce box of Craisins, 1 ounce box of raisins, plus enough chopped dried apricots to make ¾ cup, and because I had ½ cup of toasted walnuts, used that instead of roasted salted peanuts. And you might be interested in adding a pinch or so of a favorite spice. The Cooking Club magazine also suggested replacing raisins or dates for the dried fruit mix, substituting M&Ms or butterscotch chips for the chocolate chips, or using pecans or cashews in place of peanut. Also, do not roll the dough for a smooth look, but instead, push it from a tablespoon for a bumpy top.

Here are a few other suggestions for after-school treats from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food publications.

Frozen fruit salad

Peel 2 bananas, cut crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Place banana slices and 2 cups each of seedless red and green grapes on a small rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze until fruit is frozen throughout, at least 1 hour (once frozen, fruit can be placed in resealable plastic bags and kept frozen up to 2 months.

On-the-trail mix

1 ½ cups mixed dried fruit, such as cranberries, apricots, cherries, raisins and apples

1 cup pecans

½ cup candy-coated chocolate

In a medium bowl, combine dried fruit, pecans, and chocolate; divide among six resealable plastic bags. To store, keep at room temperature, up to 1 month.

Serves 6

Here’s my favorite due to its simplicity and its name.

Ants on a log

3 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese

2 celery stalks, trimmed

¼ cup or more assorted small dried fruit such as cherries, cranberries, raisins, and/or currants.

Spread cream cheese inside the hollow of each celery stalk. Arrange dried fruit on top, and cut celery in half.

Serves 2 or more

Almost too good to be true, this recipe makes 6 bananas that can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Chocolate-covered bananas

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped6 frozen pop sticks or wooden skewers2 bananas, peeled and cut crosswise into thirds1/3 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of gently simmering water. Stir just until melted. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Insert a stick in one end of each banana piece. Dip banana, one piece at a time, in chocolate, spooning on additional chocolate to cover. Sprinkle each banana with peanuts, and set on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm, 20 minutes, or up to 3 days.

Hope this tastes as good as the picture.

Grape and cream-cheese tostada

2 tablespoons cream cheese

One 6-inch flour tortilla

½ cup red seedless grapes

1 teaspoon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking sheet. Spread cream cheese on the tortilla. Cut grapes in half lengthwise and arrange cut side up on cream cheese, pressing in gently. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crisp, about 15-18 minutes.

And the list goes on with after-school treats as simple as cheese and crackers, freshly picked apples, cones filled with longtime ice cream favorites from Madison’s own Schoeps and the Chocolate Shoppe, or a favorite banana bread like my mother made, served warm after school.

Mother’s favorite banana bread

½ cup shortening

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cup brown sugar

2 well-beaten eggs

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup sour milk

1 cup banana pulp

½ cup chopped walnuts

Cream shortening, vanilla and brown sugar. Add eggs and beat thoroughly. Stir in sifted flour, salt and baking soda alternately with milk and banana pulp just until blended. Stir in walnuts. Prepare 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until testing done. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Recent requests: Deep fried French toast, and coating batters for meat or fish that are baked, not fried.

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