The first time that I tore open a package of Prince chocolate cookies and started eating them in the car, my boyfriend, Xavier, just about came unglued.
"What are you doing?!" he said, and none too quietly. You'd have thought I was about to open a bordeaux instead of a burgundy.
"Um, eating a cookie," I replied. "Car snacks," I added, "you know."
Obviously he didn't, being French and all. Apparently eating in the car while driving isn't something that's done. Standing in the convenience stores attached to the gas stations along the highway and inhaling a sandwich that you've just bought in a plastic container, however, is. So is throwing down a blanket at one of the many well-marked scenic spots along the roads for just such a thing, and having an impromptu picnic.
Which isn't the same thing at all. The point, I explained, is to be able to eat while burning up the miles.
Five years later, he has finally acquiesced, but if given the choice, he'd still rather kill three hours and have a sit-down lunch at a restaurant as opposed to the snack-while-we-drive concept.
Here are a few easy-to-make, easy-to-pack snacks that you can put together before you hit the road.
> Cowgirl Granola Bars
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2 cups oats, triticale or a mixture
1/2 cup chopped figs
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for oiling cookie sheet
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 1/2 -inch-by-10-inch rimmed cookie sheet (it's important to use a rimmed one) with heavy-duty foil. With a paper towel, oil the surface and sides well. Set aside.
Toast the sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes; watch them closely so they don't burn.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, toasted seeds and dried figs.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together the 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, honey, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Cook this only until the brown sugar melts and the ingredients come together, about 2-3 minutes.
Pour the spice-sugar mixture over the oats and seeds, and, with a wooden spoon, stir to make sure they are evenly coated. Press into the oiled cookie sheet, using a spatula to make sure you get a nice even thickness. Slide into the oven for 30 minutes or until it begins to brown. Let cool completely, and with a very sharp knife, slice into squares. Either wrap individually in wax or parchment paper, or store in an airtight container. Makes 25 4-inch-by-2-inch bars.
Nutritional analysis per bar: 125 calories, 5g fat, 18g carbohydrates, 3g protein, no cholesterol, 45mg sodium, 2g dietary fiber; and 34 percent of calories from fat.
> Triple Chocolate Biscotti
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
8 ounces chocolate chips or chopped semi- or bittersweet chocolate
8 ounces white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate1
Line two large cookie sheets with heavy-duty foil. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Add flour/cocoa mixture just until it combines. By hand, fold in the chocolate and white chocolate chips.
Put half of the dough on each cookie sheet and with wet fingertips shape into a log, about 3 inches wide and 12 inches long, at least. Refrigerate for a half-hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake logs one sheet at a time, for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the tops begin to crack and a tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and then cut into 1-inch thick slices and place back on baking sheet. Pop back into the oven for about 8 minutes, then turn them over, and bake for another 8 minutes. Let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container. These are better the next day. Makes about 30.
Nutritional analysis per biscotti: 162 calories, 7g fat, 23g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 25mg cholesterol, 109mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber; 40 percent of calories from fat.
--Adapted from "Bon Appetit," April 2001
> Homemade Cinnamon-Sugar Graham Crackers
1 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
7 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup honey
5 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a food processor or in a bowl with a pastry blender, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and pulse or mix until the mixture resembles course meal (it doesn't have to be uniform).
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add this to the flour mixture until the dough comes together.
Lay out a large piece of plastic wrap and put the dough on top, shaping it into a large rectangle, about 1-inch thick. Pop the dough in the fridge for 2 hours, at least, or in the freezer for an hour.
Divide the dough in half and put half in the fridge so it stays cool. Roll the dough out in a large, thin rectangle, about 1/8 -inch thick, and using a knife, either cut out 4-inch squares or use a large cookie cutter. Place the crackers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and put in the fridge for a half-hour or 15 minutes in the freezer. Make sure they're nice and firm before you bake them.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon mixture together in a small bowl. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the oven is hot, pull out one cookie sheet of crackers (bake only one at a time), and using a fork, make dotted lines, being careful not to poke holes all the way through the dough. Dust with cinnamon and sugar, and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating halfway so they bake evenly. Let cool completely, and store in an airtight container. Makes 24 4-inch squares.
Nutritional analysis per square: 125 calories, 4g fat, 22g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 9mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber. (25 percent of calories from fat.) -- Adapted from "Pastries From the La Brea Bakery," and blogs 101 Cookbooks and Smitten Kitchen