I come from the generation whose after school snacks included warm, baked sweet potatoes drizzled with butter and Steen’s 100% Cane Syrup, Rice Krispies Treats, tac-tac (popcorn balls), ants-on-logs and sugar and butter sandwiches. If my nieces and nephews caught me giving these to their children, they would never allow them to visit me again. So, who would know better about good after-school treats than my nieces who gave me some great suggestions.

My niece Monique tells me that her three girls Olivia, Isabella and Sophia love sliced apples or bananas spread with peanut butter, crackers and cheese (any kind) and ants-on-logs (ah they are still popular), made with celery sticks filled with peanut butter and sprinkled with raisins. Rather than baked sweet potatoes, Monique tosses thinly sliced sweet potatoes with a little olive oil and bakes them for about 20 minutes. She then sprinkles them with sea salt. Steamed edamame tossed with sea salt are also a welcome treat for the girls. There are also carrots, celery and peppers with hummus or ranch dressing. She sometimes melts chocolate bark containing dried apricots and salted cashews and after it cools, lets them dip it in melted chocolate or Nutella. (Hey, these are sounding pretty good. We didn’t have Nutella when I was a youngster.)

“You can also bake or zap sliced apples in the microwave for four minutes and sprinkle cinnamon on top,” Monique says. “A dollop of whipped cream makes it taste like apple pie. I also fill snack-size plastic storage bags with pretzel sticks, raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, marshmallows and M&Ms or chocolate chips.”

Lemon Bars

1    stick butter, melted
¼    cup powdered sugar
1    cup plus 2 tablespoons
    all-purpose flour
2    large eggs
1    cup granulated sugar
¾    teaspoon baking powder
2    tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine butter, powdered sugar and one cup of flour in a bowl. Mix well. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
In another bowl, beat eggs until light in color. Add granulated sugar, remaining two tablespoons flour, baking powder and lemon juice. Mix well. Spread mixture over the crust and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove and cool before cutting into squares.
About 40 squares

Peanut Butter ‘N Jelly Bars

3    cups all-purpose flour
1    cup sugar
1 ½    teaspoons baking powder
½    cup butter, softened
½    cup smooth peanut butter
2    large eggs, slightly beaten
1    cup grape jelly

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in butter and peanut butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in eggs and mix well.
Press half of the mixture into a greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Spread grape jelly over the peanut butter mixture. Crumble the remaining dough over the jelly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, cool, then cut into bars.
Makes about 2 dozen.  

Strawberry Smoothies

1    cup frozen unsweetened
1    cup frozen unsweetened
1    cup orange or grapefruit juice
½    cup plain Greek yogurt
2    tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Serve immediately.

My niece Suzanne tells me that popcorn, granola bars and pretzels dipped in peanut butter and drizzled with honey are favorites with her children.
A friend says that her two grandchildren go ga-ga over Greek yogurt mixed with cereal and a little honey. She also showed me how simple this is: Cut watermelon (seedless is best) into chunks or slices and put in plastic storage bags in the freezer. Honey dews also work just fine: Sprinkle with a little fresh lime juice to serve. Her fruit kabobs of choice have thredded chunks of pineapple and strawberries. Pair the kabobs with a dip made with low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt and brown sugar or cinnamon with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
I’m getting the drift of these easy, healthy snacks, but once in a while, a slice of cake or a cookie can’t be too harmful.

Hot-Milk Cake

1    stick butter
1    cup milk
4    large eggs
1    teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾    cups sugar
2    cups cake flour
    Pinch of salt
1    teaspoon baking powder
    Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan without a removable bottom.
Combine the butter and milk in a heavy saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.
While the milk is heating, beat the eggs and the vanilla in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for two to three minutes. Then, with the mixer on medium speed, beat in the sugar in three pours, beating well as you add each portion. Add half the flour and the salt, beat for 30 seconds, and then add the remaining flour.
When the butter and milk mixture has boiled, remove from the heat and pour into the flour mixture. The beater must be turning while the milk is added. Scrape the sides of the bowl to thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Add the baking powder and beat for one minute at medium speed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert onto a rack to cool. Dust the top with the powdered sugar.
You can serve the cake with seasonal fruit.
Makes 1 cake to serve 8 to 10