Snack Basket – A Cornucopia of Gluten-free Choices
By Elizabeth Kaplan
“There is nothing to eat in this house,” says my twelve year old son, just returning from a full day at school.
“Gee, I just spent $300 at the store, “ I reply, baffled that the starving child cannot find anything.
Take two, enter three year old son, “I’m hungry!” he says. He opens the pantry door and starts pulling items off the shelf searching for something to snack on. “I want this!” he says, holding up a bag of marshmallows left over from our camping trip. Why didn’t I dispose of those at the campsite?
Take three, fifteen year old daughter walks in the kitchen. “Mom, can you make me a snack?”
“Not now honey, please help yourself to something,” I say as I am finishing up an email.
“There’s nothing to eat in this house,” she says as she gazes into the refrigerator.
This is a common scene in kitchens of families with growing children, especially when food allergies limit the choices they can have. What I figured out was my children needed to find snacks in an organized place, otherwise they just did not know what to eat. So along came the concept of the snack basket at home. It sits on our counter. Since I work, I restock it in the morning so that when the kids get home from school, it’s their go to place for something to tide them over until I muster up the energy to cook dinner.
What goes in the gluten-free, allergy-free snack basket?
Fresh Fruits: I always keep fresh, washed organic apples, banana, and oranges or whatever is seasonal as the main choice. Blueberries, cherries, strawberries and grapes I’ll put in a small bowl within the basket.
Dried fruit and nuts: trail mix, (if your kids are nut free, there are some nut free trail mixes, try Enjoy Life’s) almonds and pistachios in the shell, dried apricots, dried apples and dried cranberries. Purchase or make your own if you have a dehydrator.
Handy packaged snacks: I usually do not purchase smaller packaged items for both earth’s sake and economics. However, I have found that our 3 year old is under the impression that if it comes in a little box or fancy wrapper, it must be something special. They are also so easy to have on hand for a grab and go snack. So, I break down and purchase organic raisins in little packages and gluten-free bars, occasionally. I also place organic fruit leathers in the basket. Our three year old adores the fruit and veggie purees in squeezable bags. The great thing about these is that your child is getting two servings of fruit and/or veggies in one snack. If your child isn’t keen on veggies, the blends of fruits and veggies have more of a fruit than a veggie taste and are also high in fiber. The gluten-free bars that we enjoy are Luna’s gf varieties, Lara Bars and Zing bars. Since we have soy, peanut, dairy and gluten allergies in the house, it is difficult to find bars that don’t have at least one of these ingredients!
Oatmeal Cookies: loaded with fiber and low in sugar, Wholegrain Oatmeal Spice Cookies are great to keep on hand. The children and I prepare them in mini format and freeze them. One mini cookie (1/3 the size of a regular cookie) has only 20 calories, less than .5 grams of fat, and 1 gram of sugar. The kids know that they need to have one piece of fruit or a portion of nuts/trail mix before they can help themselves to one or two cookies. (At least that is my belief, naïve as it may be.) Another great recipe using the Oatmeal Spice Cookie Mix as a base is Cherry-Almond Oat Bars. These bars boast healthy ingredients and are easy to prepare. Children can easily make them on their own and ask parents for help to place them in the oven. Recipe below.
Chex Mix: For an after school treat or a party snack, I make Agave-Almond Chex Mix, recipe below. There are many varieties of Chex mix to create and kids have fun participating in the process. I place some of it in a bowl in the snack basket and store the rest in an air-tight container.
Gluten-free Pretzels: Glutino makes tasty gf pretzels in a variety of sizes and shapes. They disappear very quickly at our house so I sometimes mix them into a Chex Mix to extend their life.
Creating a handy, organized space for snacks will help your children make healthy snack choices, ease the burden on parents of constantly being the short order cook, and help you to engage your children in preparing their own food. Here are a couple of recipe ideas for snacks that you and your children can make together in large quantities and freeze, if desired.
Snack basket recipes:
Gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free/vegan optional
1 package The Pure Pantry Wholegrain Oatmeal Spice Cookie Mix
¾ cup butter or coconut oil,
2 eggs (or egg replacer)
1 teaspoon vanilla.
Add raisins if you like.
Directions are on the package.
Simple and satisfying.
Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Vegan optional
1 package gluten-free Oatmeal Spice cookie mix from The Pure Pantry
½ cup orange juice
½ cup raw agave nectar
1 large egg beaten (or equivalent egg replacer)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
1 cup chopped raw almonds
¼ cup ground flax meal or ground almond meal
½ cup dried cherries (can substitute dried cranberries, blueberries or raisins)
- Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray an 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
- Place Oatmeal Spice cookie mix in large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the orange juice, agave nectar, egg, oil and whisk until just combined. Stir in almonds and dried cherries (or other option).
- Spread the batter evenly in the pan to the edges. Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan. Invert onto a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 bars. Wrap individually in foil or plastic wrap. Bars can be stored in airtight container for up to a week and can be frozen for up to three months.
Agave -Almond Chex Mix
Image courtesy of General Mills Chex Recipes
Gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free
6 cups gluten-free Rice Chex or Honey Nut Chex
1 cup dried banana chips
1 cup whole raw almonds
¼ cup butter or coconut oil
1 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar
¼ cup raw agave nectar
1 teaspoons ground ginger (optional)
1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)
½ cup dried cranberries, pineapple, or papaya
- In a large skillet melt butter or coconut oil with brown sugar and agave over medium heat, stir in ground ginger until mixture comes to a boil.
- Place cereal, banana chips, and almonds in skillet and stir until evenly coated for about 3 minutes.
- Stir in coconut and dried fruit and continue stirring over medium heat for 3 minutes until cereal begins to brown.
- Spread on cookie sheet covered with parchment paper to cool. Store in covered container.