Panther Bars

Back To School: Lunchbox Kits and Snackable Homemade Energy Bars

We are only one week into school. And I’m obsessed with nutrition and a well-balanced diet again. I should probably relax a little, but it’s a hobby. I’m compelled to fix and arrange food–nutritious, calorie-dense, vegetarian food into my vegetarian school kid’s lunchbox. We use Planet Box as our lunch system. Isn’t it crazy how many lunch kits there are nowadays? Gone are the days of cartoon-inscribed metal boxes and crinkly brown paper sacks and even just plastic no-name branded lidded containers that fit like a jigsaw puzzle. (Just FYI, here’s a short list of just a few lunch-y kits, some useful for adults and kids).

Last year, I began posting on my Facebook page daily photos of my kids’ lunchboxes as I finished assembling them. I got numbers and numbers of inquiries on where I got this particular lunchbox, on my FB page, my blog, and in person. I realized this year, as I continue to get questions like the ones listed below that I didn’t have a real place on my blog that I devoted talking about this metal hinged kit that has transformed our morning routine, reduced our use of plastic (bags and containers), eased my kids’ lunch-opening ordeal, and allowed me to visualize a well-balanced meal in a box. FULL DISCLOSURE: I don’t get a thing for mentioning this lunchbox so lovingly here, but I should :) ha ha! At least, now I feel I can refer readers directly to this page for information and I LOVE to share the knowledge of what makes my life/health easier.

  • “Where do you get that kind of lunchbox?”

website linked above or Pottery Barn Kids

  • “Do things spill out of there?” 

    no, occasionally there will be a few crumbs in the case

  • “Does the cheese stay cool?”

stays cool (with an ice pack put in the case) but not very cold

  • “How do you pack soup?”

i stick a thermos into the outside pocket of the case; it fits snugly

  • “What about wet stuff, like applesauce or cottage cheese?”

                                                                                        I can put a very small amount of this in the small dipper, but it’s not enough. So I’d rather use individual plastic applesauces like Mott’s and put in outside pocket or save for snack time.

  • “What’s the small dipper useful for?”

                                                                                       I use it for small amounts of dips like herbed cream cheese, honey-mustard sauce, or when I want to try something new

Though our lunches are a breeze now, we still need to pack snacks for morning snacktime, and these need to be portable, healthy, not too messy, and able to be eaten rather quickly. I’d rather not choose gummy fruit snacks, processed energy bars (OMG the sugar content in those make them look like a dessert bar!), or goldfish and fruit all the time. These little energy bars suffice for a morning pick-me-up in combination perhaps with a piece of portable fruit or cheese as a nice little healthful and well-balanced snack.

Here’s the recipe for a good-calorie rich, energizing, nutritious, unprocessed energy bar, that you can easily make at home. I would consider doubling the recipe since they will be GONE, quickly. My daughter and I named them Panther Bars, for her elementary school mascot. Individually wrapping them is not vital, but so darn cute. I’ve tested the bars on a handful of kids and adults. There’s a 100% success rate with the adults and about a 70% success rate with children thus far, which I also consider pretty darn good!

Panther Bars

Serves: 10 small snack size bars

  • 2 cups almonds, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled if desired
  • 1 medium-sized apple, unpeeled
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey (use less if adding apple, i.e. around 2 tablespoons honey)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2-4 tablespoons hemp seeds (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grind the almonds to a coarse powder in a food processor, about 20-30 seconds. You don’t want to make almond butter, so don’t over-process. And just a warning, whole nuts in a food processor are loud so warn your family!
  3. Add the oats and grind further to mix into the almond powder, about 5-10 seconds.
  4. Add salt and wheat germ and whirl to mix.
  5. Remove this dry blend from the processor and place in a medium mixing bowl.
  6. Grate carrots in a food processor. Grate in the apple if using.
  7. Add them to the mixing bowl.
  8. Stir in honey, almond extract, vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  9. Mix well to incorporate all ingredients. I use my hands to mix these to incorporate all ingredients well.
  10. Pour all contents of bowl into a well-greased baking dish.
  11. Bake for 30 minutes until top is dry and slightly hardened.
  12. Allow to cool COMPLETELY on a rack. They will crack on the surface a bit, but wait to cut until completely cooled down.
  13. Cut into bars or use cookie cutters if desired. Carefully remove bars from pan. If using hemp seeds, you can press some of the bars into the hemp seeds if desired. (Hemp seeds shouldn’t be cooked at high temperatures to retain their nutritional benefits i.e. essential fatty acids, and so much more!).
  14. Store the bars in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. They will be at a perfect temperature by the time snack time rolls around.
©Shefaly Ravula/Shef’s Kitchen

Other Helpful Lunchbox Links:

Love This? Get More!

Subscribe to hear more about great posts just like this one. You'll receive infrequent updates about Shef's Kitchen, and we'll never SPAM you or sell your email!

Support Shef’s Kitchen

Want to support this food adventure? By using the box below, we'll receive a small commission from your purchases. You won't pay higher prices or anything!


  1. says

    My lunches in grade school, back in the day, looked exactly like those pictured here. Well, maybe not so much, actually. :) I do remember eating yucky and stale hamburgers though. Nice pics!

    • shefskitchen says

      Thanks for visiting Ed! I never got lunches like that either ha! I occasionally got a brown bag, but mostly I bought lunch at school. That’s how I learned what chicken-fried steak was!

  2. says

    What a great post! I LOVE the name of the bars and I love that your daughter named them!!! What a great way to empower your kids in the kitchen!

    I also love the pics of the Planet Box too!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe: