''We're hungry, Mom. May we have a cookie?'' I looked up at our boys and then glanced at the clock. It was 3:30, and although lunchtime had long since passed, dinnertime was still a couple of hours away. As a parent I had discovered that it's easy to dish out midafternoon snacks, but it's hard when children have small appetites for dinner because those sweet snacks have filled them up.
The children had a snack that day, but it wasn't cookies. We made a small plate of all-purpose crackers topped with cheese and lunch meat. The simple recipes below are nutritious and flavorful, and many of them offer the children a chance to help construct them.
* Ants on a Log. Ingredients: celery, peanut butter, raisins. Directions: Clean and cut celery, then fill celery troughs with peanut butter. When topped with raisins, these snacks really do resemble ants on a log!
* Sweet and Sour Fruit Cup. Ingredients: oranges, bananas. Directions: Peel bananas and cut into bite-size pieces. Repeat the process with oranges. Mix together and serve.
* Deviled eggs. Ingredients: eggs, mayonnaise, mustard. Directions: Boil eggs , cool, shell and halve, then separate the egg yolks from the whites. Smash egg yolks with fork, then blend in small amount of mayonnaise and a dash of mustard. Fill egg whites with yolk mixture.
* Hiking Snacks. Ingredients: apples, peanut butter, granola. Directions: Peel and quarter apples, then cover with peanut butter and roll them in granola. We call these Hiking Snacks because our boys like to wrap them in waxed paper and take them on little hikes.
* Juicy-ice. Ingredients: fresh orange juice, or apple, cranberry, or grape juice. Directions: Prepare juice. Fill ice cube tray or disposable cups with the juice. If available, set a Popsicle stick in each compartment and freeze well. This treat takes a few minutes to devour, but you can be sure your children won't complain!
* Apple-cheese treats. Ingredients: apple, cheese. Directions: Peel, halve, and core apple. Finish by placing the cheese slice between the two halves. A variation is to combine small pieces of apple and cheese with a toothpick and set on plate.
* Bird Watcher's Delight. Ingredients: processed cheese, sunflower seeds. Directions: Cut cheese into bite-size chunks, roll them in sunflower seeds, and set each on a plate with a toothpick.
* Everyday or any-day fun mix. Ingredients: raisins, nuts, granola, unsugared cereals. Directions: Mix any or all of the above items in equal parts in large bowl and serve in paper cups. We used to call this a party mix until we discovered it's fun to eat on any occasion.
* Packed-in pickle. Ingredients: whole dill pickle, cheese slice, lunch meat. Directions: Cut pickle lengthwise into quarters. Roll each long section in a piece of lunch meat topped with a cheese slice. After rolling, skewer six or eight toothpicks along the ''log'' and then cut off diagonal slices.
* Potpourri supreme. Ingredients: any fresh fruits. Directions: Peel, pit, core, and dice fruits and mix together in a bowl. Children love this easy-to-make snack.