Back-to-School Lunch {Recipes for Peanut Butter & Chocolate Granola and Jammy Oat Bars}

collageI will have a 1st and 3rd grader this year, beginning August 21st, meaning it’s my first year to pack lunches for both children {our school system still operates with half-day kindergarten}. I’m excited because food is, after all, what I “do”. However, try as I might, my children don’t eat the same things. For instance, I can pack a salad and/or veggies like celery or grilled asparagus for Hannah my first-grader. Caleb my third-grader, not so much. He’s starting to eat raw carrots with dip and grape tomatoes. And he’ll eat broccoli at home, especially cooked, though it usually comes back uneaten in his lunchbox when I try to send it to school.

Anyway, I was excited to find a full array of school lunch products at my Target this year. I’m all about convenience, one-stop shopping. I’m also trying to wean my family slowly “off the grid” in terms of using disposable plastic bags and things. This year I’m just about there, although I will still put a note in their lunch each day {click HERE to visit my Pinterest “Lunchtastic” board for tons of free printable lunch notes}, and I couldn’t resist some heart napkins to start the school year on a loving note.

everythingeditedToday I made two quick and simple recipes using whole oats. Grand total of time it took for both was one hour. The great thing is the granola will keep in an air-tight container for up to a week. And the jammy oat bars will keep up to two weeks in the freezer. My eureka moment today came because of this blog. As I was setting everything out to photograph, the kids were very interested in all the components. I’d planned to give them a sample of the two things I made anyway, but they both ended up eating a full serving of the granola and yogurt in their nifty new containers I found. The bottom is lined with gel to freeze and then fill up with milk or yogurt in the morning. The top is filled with cereal or granola and even contains its own spoon that folds into the top lid. Both kids loved these and Caleb honestly said he couldn’t wait to eat lunch everyday this year. They also both said they’d be happy with yogurt and strawberries. So at least for my kids, a trial run is proving to be helpful for setting us up for school lunch success.

collageI’m not a stickler when it comes to packing. I do throw in processed foods here and there. But the majority of the time, I make things homemade. Feeding my kids can still be a source of frustration although when I step back and decide not to be offended that they don’t like something I may have spent a lot of time making, I can acknowledge that kids are no different than adults. Everyone really does have different tastes and preferences. Another small victory came a few weeks ago when the kids and I were eating lunch at Chipotle {actually the first time either one had ever been.} In addition to our two burritos we split three ways, we ordered chips and guacamole. Caleb tried the guacamole and said, “Mom, this is OK, but it’s not your guacamole”. I can’t describe how good this made me feel! To be honest, all I do for my guacamole is mash avocado, lime and salt… nothing exotic. But now Caleb and Hannah are associating flavors and foods {real food, not processed} with me and our family and that makes me happy. 

If you check under my Recipe Index tab at the top of my blog, you’ll find a category for Kids’ Lunchbox. Here I’ve filed five holiday-themed lunches I posted over the past year, plus some other homemade breads, salads and treats that should give you continued inspiration for packing those school lunches each and every day. And as we go through this school year, I’ll continue to post lunch ideas as I’m inspired to make them for my own kiddos lunches.

In the meantime, here are the recipes for both this super basic peanut butter and chocolate granola {to serve with your favorite vanilla yogurt} and these jammy oatmeal bars I found posted over at Real Mom Nutrition. What are some of your favorite foods to pack for kids’ lunches?

fruit barsedited

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Granola
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  1. 4 T. creamy peanut butter
  2. 4 T. honey
  3. 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  4. 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  5. 2 c. old-fashioned oats (not quick oats)
  6. 1.5 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped fine
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix the peanut butter and honey in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30-45 seconds and stir together. Add the cinnamon and vanilla and stir to combine.
  3. Mix the peanut butter mixture with the whole oats in a large bowl. Spread in an even layer over the sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes, stirring the granola halfway through.
  4. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the hot granola and allow to melt for about 1 minute. Then stir to distribute through the granola. Allow the granola to cool on the sheet pan for about 30 minutes. Store in an air-tight container for up to one week. Serve granola with vanilla yogurt.
Adapted from Table for Two
Adapted from Table for Two
Foodtastic Mom
Jammy Oat Bars
Yields 16
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  1. 1 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
  2. 1/2 c. rolled oats
  3. 1/2 c. light brown sugar, tightly packed
  4. 1/2 t. baking powder
  5. 1/4 t. salt
  6. 6 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 10-12 pieces
  7. 1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
  8. 3/4 c. jam (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry or apricot are good choices)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil so that it drapes a couple of inches over two sides.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together with a whisk.
  3. Attach the bowl to the mixer and with the paddle attachment running on low, add the butter, one piece at a time until well-incorporated. Add the walnuts and continue to mix until it looks like wet sand.
  4. Using your hands, press 2/3 of the dough firmly and evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
  5. With a spoon, spread the jam evenly over the dough. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the dough evenly over the jam. You will see the jam peeking through.
  6. Bake until the top is browned, about 40-45 minutes.
  7. Let the bars cool in the baking pan for 30 minutes.
  8. Lift the foil and bars out of the pan and carefully peel the foil off the edges. Cut into 16 squares. Store in an air-tight container for up to 5 days or 2 weeks in the freezer.
Adapted from Real Mom Nutrition
Foodtastic Mom