My daughter often does't have time to eat lunch in middle school. You spend five years teaching your baby how to chew, then send them off to school. Their twenty-minute lunch is whittled down to five minutes by the time they get out of class late, stand in line to wash their hands, wait for everyone else to go through the lunch line....
She realized this, and wisely asked me to pack energy bars for those days she can't eat her sandwich fast enough. She then eats her lunch after she gets home.
I've been experimenting with making cheaper, healthier energy bars than are available in stores.
Snack Girl posted a recipe for Cereal Bars which are made in muffin cups and seem very un-bar like. Later she posted a recipe that uses pumpkin and maple syrup instead of banana. But I found that using sweet potato eliminates the need for added sweetener.
I call my version Powerballs. They weren't a big hit with my daughter, but my son and his high school buddies love them. I do, too!
Coarsely chop nuts and dried fruit by hand or in food processor. Stir together tahini and sweet potato, then add nuts, fruit, oats, and spices.
Spoon into muffin tin, greased or lined with muffin papers, and bake at 350F for 30 - 35 minutes or until browned. Makes 48 balls.
I fill a 24-cup mini muffin tin twice. The balls really only just sit on top of the cups, so I fill the same tin twice without washing in between and have never had any problems with sticking. These balls are much bigger than mini muffins, but it works to make them in the little tin.
I usually make half the batter into balls, then add 3 Tablespoons fair trade cocoa (list at lower right) to the other half. It's nice to have different flavors. The cocoa makes the batter firm enough to roll into little balls (Powerball Minis), roll in cocoa (like truffles) and bake on a cookie sheet. If you want a chocolate-free way to make firmer batter, try protein powder, oat flour, or nutritional yeast. (Don't add too much protein powder if these are going to be eaten by children.)
Spirulina (above) is another lovely possibility, but it turns everything a bright teal color. My kids (and husband) refused to eat it, saying it "looked weird". I thought I would tone it down with a little cocoa, but the color only dimmed. I guess it's impossible to sneak blue-green algae into anything!
Powerballs go straight in the freezer at our house, but when our power went out they lasted a week at room temperature in humid Louisiana (and may have lasted longer if there had been any left...).
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