No-bake is a bonus too for time-crunched parents who want their kids to have healthful lunches and after-school snacks.
Carolyn Hemming and Patricia Green have taken all those factors into account when creating recipes for bars, squares and muffins for their new cookbook, "Sweet Goodness: Unbelievably Delicious Gluten-Free Baking Recipes."
Instead of buying prepared snacks such as granola bars, which often contain high amounts of sugar and starches, they suggest making the items from scratch using whole, natural ingredients.
And you don't have to be following a gluten-free food plan to enjoy these healthy treats.
Hemming's four-year-old daughter, who is not gluten-intolerant, is going into senior kindergarten. Hemming will tuck a small treat, such as ginger squash molasses cookies, into her lunch. For an after-school snack at home she might give her cranberry almond energy bites, which are easy to make and don't need baking. (Many schools have a nut-free policy so it's best not to send these with your child.)
Here are some recipes from their cookbook to add to your repertoire for lunch box treats:
APRICOT, WALNUT AND PINE NUT GRANOLA BARS
These easy-to-make bars are nutritious and dispense with the need to purchase granola bars. Apricots, walnuts and pine nuts are a tasty combination and create a pleasing texture.
If desired, you can omit the nuts or substitute sunflower seeds.
250 ml (1 cup) finely chopped dried apricots
175 ml (3/4 cup) coarsely chopped walnuts
175 ml (3/4 cup) pine nuts
175 ml (3/4 cup) quinoa or millet puffs
175 ml (3/4 cup) quick oats
125 ml (1/2 cup) unsweetened finely grated coconut
50 ml (1/4 cup) chia seeds
125 ml (1/2 cup) liquid honey
5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
125 ml (1/2 cup) white chocolate chips
Lightly grease a 2.5-l (9-inch) square baking dish or pan. Line bottom and sides with one piece of parchment, big enough so that it can fold over itself to completely cover top of pan, and grease parchment or lightly spray with cooking oil.
In a large bowl, place dried apricots, walnuts, pine nuts, puffs, oats, coconut and chia; set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring honey to a simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over puff mixture and stir until completely covered.
Press mixture firmly and evenly into pan, folding in side pieces of parchment to cover mixture and keep your hands clean. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave oven (15-second intervals with stirring in between) until smooth. Place chocolate in a small resealable plastic bag, then cut 5 mm (1/4 inch) from one corner and pipe chocolate over top of the granola mix.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to set for at least 1 hour. Cut into 12 bars or 24 squares.
Makes 24 squares or 12 bars.
Nutrition information per serving (squares): 140 calories; 2 g protein; 16 g carbohydrates; 2 g dietary fibre; 8 g fat; 11 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 10 mg sodium.
CARROT BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES
A fluffy white cookie made with oat, sorghum and quinoa flours and packed with shredded carrots. It bursts with butterscotch flavour in every bite.
250 ml (1 cup) finely ground oat flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) sorghum flour
125 ml (1/2 cup) quinoa flour
10 ml (2 tsp) baking powder
125 ml (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
50 ml (1/4 cup) virgin coconut oil
175 ml (3/4 cup) lightly packed brown sugar
75 ml (1/3 cup) unsweetened applesauce
10 ml (2 tsp) pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
250 ml (1 cup) raw shredded carrots
175 ml (3/4 cup) butterscotch chips
Lightly spray with cooking oil or grease two large baking sheets. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
In a large bowl, mix together oat, sorghum and quinoa flours and baking powder and set aside. In a separate medium bowl, mix butter and coconut oil with sugar, applesauce and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in carrots and butterscotch chips. Add butter mixture to flour mixture and stir until well combined. Scoop dough into 4-cm (1 1/2-inch) balls and place them on prepared baking sheets 5 cm (2 inches) apart.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until edges are slightly golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheets.
Makes 48 cookies.
Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 1 g protein; 8 g carbohydrates; 1 g dietary fibre; 4.5 g fat; 4 g sugar; 15 mg cholesterol; 10 mg sodium.
SWEET POTATO MUFFINS
Sweet potato is not only a great source of beta-carotene but also a good source of dietary fibre, iron and potassium. Combined with the goodness of sorghum flour, these dense but moist muffins are flavourful with fall spices.
250 ml (1 cup) sorghum flour
175 ml (3/4 cup) white rice flour
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
2 ml (1/2 tsp) ground ginger
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground cloves
1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
150 ml (2/3 cup) seedless raisins
250 ml (1 cup) sweet potato, cooked in skin and flesh removed and mashed
2 large eggs
125 ml (1/2 cup) 2 per cent milk or light coconut milk
75 ml (1/3 cup) liquid honey
75 ml (1/3 cup) grapeseed oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) molasses
30 ml (2 tbsp) shelled, raw unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or 15 ml (1 tbsp) shelled, raw unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and 15 ml (1 tbsp) raw chopped walnuts
10 ml (2 tsp) liquid honey or pure maple syrup
Lightly spray with cooking oil, grease or line with paper muffin cup liners a 12-cup muffin tin. Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).
Muffins: In a medium bowl, whisk together sorghum and rice flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Stir in raisins and set aside.
In a large bowl, place sweet potato flesh, eggs, milk, honey, oil and molasses and beat to combine. Gradually add in flour mixture and stir until fully combined. Divide batter evenly among 12 muffin cups.
Topping: In a separate small bowl, toss pumpkin seeds and walnuts (if using) with honey. Divide among tops of muffin batter.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins.
Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories; 4 g protein; 39 g carbohydrates; 3 g dietary fibre; 8 g fat; 17 g sugar; 30 mg cholesterol; 130 mg sodium.
Source: "Sweet Goodness: Unbelievably Delicious Gluten-Free Baking Recipes" by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming (Penguin Canada, 2015).