When I was in elementary school, I would come home to an after-school snack of apple slices with peanut butter or crackers and cheese or veggie sticks with dip, which I’d devour as I sat at the counter doing my homework.
I texted my mom to double-check this information, and she was quick to point out the snack was ready and waiting for my sister and me every day as soon as we got off the bus. Pretty impressive, especially considering she worked.
But that sounds like a lot of daily effort. If I’m ever a mother, I’m going to need something I can pull out of the pantry and have ready at a moment’s notice. (I am a millennial, after all.)
So for this month’s edition of Test Kitchen, I landed on PB&J Bites. They looked relatively healthy and kid-friendly, and one batch promised to yield 24 bites. That’s practically a month of school days.
I was a little worried about finding some of the specific ingredients needed to make this recipe, but the bulk-food section at Fresh Thyme had everything, including a pure maple syrup dispenser.
Once I got into cooking and assembling, everything went smoothly.
My liquid mixture of natural peanut butter, water and maple syrup turned out to have more of a caramel-sauce consistency than I expected, but it mixed well into the oats and seeds. I thought I would have to rush once the two were combined, but it stayed pliable. I made my bites in two batches, since I only have one muffin tin.
Nothing about this was difficult, but measuring out each muffin tin using teaspoons and tablespoons was tedious. Once I got the hang of it, I stopped measuring the jam and then nearly ran out. I went through close to two 10-ounce jars, so I guess I got a little jam-happy. (I picked a sweetened-with-fruit-only strawberry preserve in an attempt to limit the amount of added sugar.)
I squished the bites down with my fingers instead of a spatula and then baked them for 25 minutes.
As for the finished product: I liked them, but I’m also an adult who tries to avoid added sugar in her day-to-day meals and who thinks a date-and-nut bar is a delicious and satisfying breakfast. On more than one occasion, I have had someone refer to my food choices as “bird food.” And, admittedly, these bites do bring to mind bird seed. They’re not overly sweet, and the toasted quinoa gives them a rich, nutty flavor.
These are complicated to eat as you would muffins. I waited until they came to room temperature and still ended up having to take a fork to the one I tried.
1 cup chunky natural peanut butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup quinoa
12 ounces strawberry preserves
1. Mix peanut butter, maple syrup and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until peanut butter is melted and ingredients are combined.
2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sunflower seeds and quinoa. Stir in peanut butter mixture until well combined.
3. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper wrappers. Scoop 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter and oats mixture into each wrapper, pressing down well with a spatula. Spread 2 teaspoons of the preserves over peanut butter and oats mixture in each cup. Add 2 more tablespoons peanut butter and oats mixture to cover preserves, pressing down well with a spatula.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until bites begin to brown. Cool in muffin tins 10 minutes; remove from tins to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container.