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Fruit and Chocolate Oat Bars

Anew school year brings many exciting changes and a wide array of possibilities for children. Fueling a child’s body to meet those opportunities is key. Data shows good nutrition can support a child’s function and learning during the school day. For that reason, if you pack your child’s lunch, what you include can have an impact on more than just their taste buds. If you’re like me, you may need a little help with ideas for tasty, healthier items to pack in your child’s lunch. Here’s an alternative to cupcakes or candy. The carbohydrates, vitamins and fiber in this recipe provide nutrients needed to sustain brain power and energy during your child’s day at school.

Fruit and Chocolate Oat Bars

1 cup dried fruit (such as raisins, cherries, blueberries or cranberries)

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks softened margarine

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, peanuts or almonds)

(Allergic to nuts? Try adding raw pumpkin seeds instead.)

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 350℉. Coat 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Place orange juice and dried fruit in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds.

3. In another bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt; set aside.

4. In a separate bowl, beat margarine and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

5. Add eggs, one at a time until well blended. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.

6. Stir in fruit mixture, chocolate morsels and nuts or pumpkin seeds.

7. Spread dough into greased pan. Bake for 20 – 22 minutes, or until center is set.

8. Cool completely, then cut into 32 pieces.

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