Last week, one of my closest friends sent me a lovely surprise — a book called The Lunch Box, filled with recipes for wonderful lunchtime and snack fare. I spent all weekend poring over the book, oohing and ahhing at the ideas for sandwiches, wraps, warm lunchbox-friendly entrees and innovative snacks. It was as though Michelle read my mind, because I was starting to feel like I was stuck in a rut with lunches and snacks. Plus, it was a great mood-booster to get such a thoughtful gift. So, thanks to Michelle, you guys will get to read about all sorts of new lunchbox and snack ideas!
Yesterday, I made one of the snacks from the book — nutty cereal balls. These appealed to me because they’re a healthier alternative to cookies. My kids are no strangers to treats, but I like to save the “real” desserts for special occasions, like eating out or holidays, and serve lighter fare on a daily basis. (By no means does this rule apply to me and Johnny — after the boys’ bedtime, anything goes. When my mom was staying with us after Derek was born, she walked into the kitchen around 8 p.m. one night and laughed when she saw me and Johnny at the dining table, with three cartons of ice cream open between us.) Anyway, back to the cereal balls — think of them as tiny rice krispies treats, but without the butter or the marshmallows, and instead with just a bit of peanut butter and honey. There’s no baking required, and each little ball packs a nice punch of protein (and weighs in at around 50 calories). I served two each to Jack and Derek after dinner last night, and they were delighted. They kept begging for more. I told them two was enough, but the truth was that I wanted to save the rest for myself (mother of the year right here!). Don’t worry, I’m not cruel; I’ll make more for them soon. The “cookies” take 15 minutes to prepare, at most, and is a great, relatively guilt-free treat to tuck into lunchboxes or to offer after dinner. Or, if your family is anything like mine, it’s a great “incentive” (in other words, bribe) for your kids to finish their dinners. 😉
By the way, if your child is allergic to peanut butter, you could also substitute almond butter or sunflower seed butter. Also, Johnny would like to point out that if made with Nutella, these would be positively decadent (actually, the calorie count would be the same, but I agree that the Nutella version would be delicious. Speaking of Nutella, check out the Nutella-filled strawberries if you haven’t already).
Nutty Cereal Balls (from The Lunch Box)
- 1 packed tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (you can substitute almond butter or sunflower seed butter)
- 1 cup puffed rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies; I just used a generic brand)
- Cookie sheet lined with wax paper
Melt the brown sugar and honey together in a small pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until bubbles begin to form in the liquid. Turn off the heat, then add the peanut butter to the honey and brown sugar mixture. Stir until everything is creamy and well-blended.
Add in the cereal, then quickly stir until all the cereal is coated.
Using a spoon, scoop some of the cereal mixture into your hand. Using both hands, shape the cereal into a ball. You’ll really have to press hard — there’s not a lot of goo on the cereal (which is good), so if you just press loosely, the whole thing will crumble. In order to get the cereal to stay in ball form, you have to press it. I found it best to compress the cereal in my fist at first, then shape it into a ball. As you’ll see, each ball will be pretty small.
Place the formed balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, then place the cookie sheet into the fridge for 5-15 minutes. Then, serve or place the balls in an airtight container for up to three or four days. Enjoy!