Okay, honestly, was lunch not the most spectacular part of the day back when we were in school? English class = boring. Math? Yeah, ew. And gym?! Please God, let a giant lightning bolt strike the locker room so I don’t have to play dodge ball today. Please? All these just paled in comparison to lunch – the greatest 40 minutes in the history of the American School Day.
I don’t know about you, but I lived for lunch. Only three more periods until lunch. Now two. Next hour is lunch. HOORAY! My friends and I sat huddled around one of those long collapsible tables, laughing hysterically and jabbering back in forth in the strange tongues of adolescent inside jokes (“At least I don’t back up when I beep.” “Stupid bug! You go squish now!” Yep. Ten years later….still funny.)
Of course, lunch was much more about the social interaction than it was about food. No one ever ate what I would call a complete or balanced meal. Ever. Looking around our lunch table you saw things like plain bagels. Breadsticks with marinara. Soft Pretzels. French fries. Really, they should have renamed 5th Hour “Carb Fest ’96-‘00.” When I look back at what I ate for lunch in high school, it’s kind of amazing I even managed to function. It boggles my mind to this very day. From home I brought a piece of fruit and a granola bar of some kind. I’d supplement that with a purchased drink – a bottle of water or my favorite sugary drink in the history of all sugary drinks – Green Squall Powerade. Then I’d buy one other thing completely and totally void of any nutritional value whatsoever – a small bag of Chex Mix or one of these reduced fat snack bar things that were marketed as somehow being related to the brownie family. That’s it. Maybe that’s why I’ve forgotten everything I ever learned in high school – I stopped paying attention after my blood sugar crashed and that groggy “I’m hungry” headache set in. Blah. Clearly I wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box.
Anyway, that was all in high school – long after the days where mom packed lunch were gone. Now, in all honesty, I’m starting to look forward to BEING the mom and doing the packing of the lunch for my kid myself. Isn’t it funny what a difference ten years can make?
I can already tell you what kind of lunch box packer Mom I’ll be – I’ll be the kind that gives my kid a little treat. I won’t be able to help myself – he’ll get a little homemade love from the oven to enjoy at lunch time each day. Just a little something small, nestled between whole grain bread and raw carrot sticks. Yummy enough to be special, but small enough so that if he tried to eat just that, he’d have to starve the rest of the day. Everything in moderation, right. 🙂
This cake came about by accident, but it is delicious! It’s perfect for lunch boxes because it’s sturdy and packed with oats. Nothing worse than a mushed up brownie, crumbled cookie or smashed cupcake and frosting in a lunch box, right? No need to worry about that with this! This cake will withstand just about anything a kid could do to his lunch box….drop it, kick it, throw it into the bottom of his locker, play keep away on the bus. No worries, this cake will be in tact come lunch. Maybe I’ll even go crazy and embarrass him by including a little note. “For my special baby boy. Love, Mom.” Ha! Okay, maybe not! 🙂
Like I said, this cake was kind of an accident. It started as a cookie recipe. Had I made cookies, I think they would have been a cakey cookie – so maybe the cookie part is the accident. Hm. Anyway, I wasn’t really feeling cookies, but rather something in bar form. I took that even a step further and decided to pursue a more cake-like texture by adding baking powder so they would get all light and fluffy in the oven. The results are a moist and hearty cake with the nutiness of oats, a great banana flavor and just a hint of spice. The crunchy top and creamy chocoloate and peanut butter chips inside are the best part of all! It doesn’t look like much, but sometimes its the simple things in un-fancy packages that are the most important. Like a lunch packed with love in a boring brown paper bag – it’s not the outer package that’s important, it’s what inside that counts!
OATMEAL BANANA LUNCHBOX CAKE (Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker’s 1963 Cooky Book)
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium)
- 1 cup chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, raisins, nuts or a combination of any or all! (I used half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9×9 inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
- Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
- Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly add flour mixture to electric mixer, beating after each addition until fullly mixed. Stir in oats and fold in chocolate chips.
- Pour mixtured into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.