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Tuesday
Oct092012

After-School Snacks: A Healthy Dose of Comfort 

by Liz Sniegocki

For the first time in eight years, both of my girls are at school, all day, every day. It pulls my heart in opposite directions – one way is overjoyed at their budding independence and the re-emergence of my own; the other way weeps for the same reasons. My little chicks are growing up, spending time away from the nest... without me. To help ease their transition back home each day, we’ve developed an after-school snack ritual. This time spent together, nourishing our bodies and reconnecting as a family, gives us all a much-needed daily dose of comfort.

 

A Rhythm of Our Own

When I pick my girls up from school, the first thing they ask is “What’s for after-school snack?” The question is usually posed with an air of anticipation and excitement. Perhaps they are really hungry after school, but I suspect there’s more to it than that. Beyond the snack itself, I believe my girls crave rhythm. Knowing “what comes next” gives order and structure to their days; consistent routines offer them a sense of security and contentment. Coming home to a plate of homemade cookies, or a healthy smoothie, and some time with mama, is something they can count on each day.

It is these everyday things we do together, over and over again, which truly connect us as a family. Simple routines woven into our daily life – from sharing an afternoon snack, to evening walks, to snuggling up for bedtime stories – deepen our emotional ties, and create long-lasting memories. I still remember the after-school snack time I spent with my mother. Well into high school, she set aside time, every day, to greet me after school with a heartwarming smile, a simple snack, and a genuine interest in whatever I had to say. It was a touch-point in my day, a safe and reliable place I could sink into and know that I mattered to someone, that I belonged somewhere. As childhood turned into adolescence, our familiar routine evolved, and it supported me in new ways. But it never stopped providing me with a much-needed sense of rhythm and connection. Now, this is what I strive to provide my own girls.

 

Creating an After-School Snack Ritual

An after-school snack ritual is a simple and meaningful way to welcome children back into the rhythm of the home after being away all day.  When considering adding this routine in to your days, focus first on the intention behind it, and then on the snack itself.  This is a time to be together, to share the ups and downs of your days, or to just enjoy being in one another’s company. Handing the kids a snack and then disappearing into your laptop, phone, etc. misses the point. Sit down with your children, let them know you are present for them – this nourishes them as much as the food you offer.

When it comes to the snack, I like to stick with wholesome, simple-to-make bites that offer nutrition and comfort. Some of our favorites include: stove-popped popcorn, seasonal smoothies, homemade cookies with milk, sliced fruit with nut butter, whole-grain toast points with butter and cinnamon-sugar, oven-baked veggie or fruit chips, cheese cubes and fruit kebabs, roasted (and sometimes flavored) nuts, and homemade ice pops. I usually try and combine one homespun item with one purchased, whole food item. I find this formula helps keep snacks healthy, as well as convenient.

Our after-school snack location rotates; many days, I have snack pre-set on the kitchen table for when the girls get home. Often, we take it outside; and on occasion, we gather on the couch to munch and snuggle all at once! No matter where we convene, or what we eat, the tone of our snack time is relaxed. During this time, I try not to press them for information about their day, or drill them with questions. Instead, I let my girls share whatever they want, as they feel comfortable.

For my children, I view our after-school snack ritual as a time to unwind and re-center in the security of their home base. For me, well, I treasure these moments each day... I try and take the time to really look at my girls’ faces while they share stories, laughs, and ideas; I attempt to listen intently to each and every (often adorable) word they say. I watch how they interact with one another. I tune in to their moods. And I soak it all in, knowing these school years, while they still come home to our family nest every day and share a few precious moments with me, will be gone too soon. But the sweet memories we’re making, I expect those to last a lifetime.

 

Wholesome After-School Snack Ideas


Stove-Top Popcorn

Skip the microwave popcorn and make your own – it tastes better, is better for you, and it costs less too! Here is my tried and true method of stove-top popping that ensures a crispy, perfect pop every time (with no added butter necessary).

3 T cooking oil (peanut or canola)

1/3 cup pop corn kernels (non GMO)

Salt or popcorn salt (optional)

Heat a heavy, large pan with a lid, over medium high heat. Pour oil into pan, and drop three or four “test” kernels into the oil (at this time, I also add a few shakes of popcorn salt, which is just very fine salt). Cover pan and wait to hear the test kernels pop; when they do, add remaining pop corn. Cover pan again, leaving a small crack for steam to escape. Shake gently until popping stops and remove pan from the heat. Pour into a big bowl and dig in!

 

Pumpkin Pie Smoothies

This is a great seasonal smoothie – and a yummy way to get some veggies into an after-school snack! I use organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible, and organic whole milk dairy products, as they are less processed. We like our smoothies good and sweet, but you can omit the honey if you prefer.


1 1/2 cups whole milk vanilla yogurt

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 large apple, peeled and chopped
1 banana
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1-2 T local raw honey, to taste (optional)
2 cups ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until blended. Serve cold, with straws. Makes approx. 4 8-oz. smoothies.

 

Fresh Ginger Sugar Cookies

These delicious cookies, made with grated fresh ginger, have become a fall favorite treat in our nest. Serve them with a cold glass of organic milk for dunking!


2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 T grated, fresh ginger

3/4 cup butter, softened

1 cup pure cane sugar

1/4 cup molasses

1 egg

Additional sugar for topping (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, beat ginger, butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and egg. Gently fold in flour mixture until just combined, then chill for one hour (this step can be skipped, but the dough will be sticky and harder to roll).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. If desired, pour an additional half-cup of cane sugar into a shallow bowl and roll the dough balls in it. Place cookies 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake approximately 15 minutes, until edges start to brown, but centers remain slightly soft. Let sit 1-2 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely. Makes 30-40 cookies.

 

Homemade Honey-Nut Butter

Making your own nut butter is easy, and helps you avoid all the “extras” in commercially prepared versions. You can use any kind of nuts* with this recipe; our favorites include almonds, cashews, peanuts or any combination of these for a mixed-nut butter. Serve with fresh-sliced apples or whole grain pretzel sticks for dipping. (*Use organic nuts whenever possible, as they are often a high-pesticide crop.)


2 cups raw, organic nuts

1 tsp sea salt

2 T local, raw honey

Place nuts in a food processor or blender and process until the oil has released and the nut butter has smoothed out (it will ball up before this happens). Turn off and transfer to a glass jar. Stir in salt and honey. Cover with an airtight lid and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.  *Tip: Nut butter will firm up in the refrigerator, so be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving it as a dip.

Elizabeth Sniegocki is a writer and advocate of simple, mindful living. She makes her nest in Sarasota, Florida, where she writes, gardens, cooks, crafts and nurtures two sweet little chicks. Elizabeth blogs about natural living, mothering, homesteading and building community at A Natural Nester (www.naturalnester.com). 

Reader Comments (1)

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Apr 18, 2015 at 2:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterAman verma

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