I’ve always wondered what happens at the end of the day to make kiddos RAVENOUS when they get home from school.
Like “bear in the woods who hasn’t seen food for three days” hungry.
Regardless of the answer, if you don’t have something nutritious and fast available for them within 15 minutes of walking into the door – forget it. They will scrounge through the pantry to find a combination of peanut better, cheesy-poofs, and fruit snacks to fulfill their hunger need.
But what mom feels good about that combination for an after-school snack?
So, I’ve been searching high and low for a nutritious, protein-packed recipe that would help squelch my kiddos “hangries” and yet would meet the 15 minute threshold. And I found one…Baked Mozzarella Sticks With Homemade Marinara.
The mozzarella sticks are around 45 calories each – serve four and you have a snack that is equal in calories to a granola bar that is a LOT more satisfying and will stay with the kiddos longer.
In fact, according to the The Midwest Dairy Association website cheese provides a protein punch, including essential nutrients, like calcium, vitamins A and B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, which help you maintain your muscles and build strong bones and teeth.(Their site is also packed with great recipe ideas, inspiring stories and solid nutrition facts.)
And the best part, these Baked Mozzarella Sticks freeze beautifully. So make a double batch, put in a glass Pyrex lined with parchment or waxed paper in the freezer, and take out your snack amount as needed.
Baked Mozzarella Sticks
12 sticks part-skim, mozzarella string cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon dried parsley
Non-stick cooking spray
1. Remove wrappers and cut string cheese in half to get 24 equal pieces. Freeze cheese for between 2 and 24 hours on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The goal is to have the cheese frozen hard.
2. While cheese is freezing, mix Italian-seasoned and panko breadcrumbs together in a small sauce pan. Place over medium heat and cook. Stir frequently until Italian-seasoned bread crumbs are light brown. About five minutes. (Note: Panko bread crumbs will not get brown.)
3. In three separate shallow dishes, place flour; beaten egg; and toasted breadcrumbs each in their own dish. Add parmesan cheese and parsley to breadcrumbs and stir till even mixed.
4. Line a new cookie sheet with parchment paper. (If you plan on making a bigger batch and freezing for later, line a 9×13 Pyrex with parchment paper and cover with tin foil or lid.)
5. Dip frozen cheese in flour. Coat evenly, then shake off excess.
6. Then dip in egg. Make sure to coat the entire piece of cheese with egg. (It will stick to the flour.)
7. Then place in breadcrumb mixture. Hold cheese on the side and spin gently. Feel free to use “loose” crumbs and sprinkle on top to get an even texture.
8. Grab cheese by sides and place on new cookie sheet or Pyrex with parchment paper.
9. Repeat steps 5 – 8 on all 24 pieces.
10. Place mozzarella sticks back into freezer for 2 to 24 hours. This step is IMPORTANT because otherwise the cheese will cook too fast and the crumbs won’t have time to get browned.
11. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rack on bottom third of your oven. Line cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
12. Place desired amount on cookie sheet and spray tops with non-cooking spray.
13. In pre-heated oven, bake for 4 to 5 minutes. Then turn and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes or until golden brown but before melting occurs.
14. Eat hot and serve with Homemade Marinara Sauce. (see below)
Homemade Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed (smashed is different than crushed. Leave them whole and just hit them with a spoon to “smush” them out.)
1 28 oz can chopped canned tomatoes, pureed in blender or food processor for five seconds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Heat medium saucepan on medium-high heat and add olive oil and garlic. Saute garlic, turning gently, until it starts to brown on all sides. About 5 – 7 minutes.
2. Add all other ingredients, turn heat down to medium-low and simmer (uncovered) for one to two hours. Stir often until desired consistency.
3. Sauce can either be eaten right away or stored (in individual or big portions) in freezer until needed.
Disclosure: I am partnering in a compensated capacity with Midwest Dairy Association to create recipes and share information about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. As always, all opinions expressed are entirely my own. Want more information – check out my Disclosure Statement.