NEW YORK CITY — It's almost Halloween, but that doesn't mean that you have to run out to the store to buy bales of sugary sweet confections for your kids and little ones around the neighborhood.
Instead, ingredients for a delicious, and somewhat nutritious, snack are waiting in your grocery store in the form of haystacks, a delicious, chocolaty, crunchy nutty treat that combines the decadence of a chocolate bar with the wholesomeness of grains, nuts and seeds.
Usually haystacks are made with chow mein noodles, but toasted oats provides a healthier alternative without sacrificing the crunch.
The best part is that he kids can jump into the action, breaking up the pretzels and walnuts, melting the chocolate and shaping the gooey deliciousness into bars or other shapes.
This rich and hearty treat combines rich milk (or dark chocolate), pumpkin seeds, toasted oats, walnuts and pretzels (you can also use spelt, an ancient grain akin to wheat that has a deep nuttiness), but feel free to substitute your favorite crunchy snacks and decorate as you see fit.
3 bars Chocolate (milk or dark)
1 cup oats
1/3 cup Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Small Bag of Pretzels
Meat or candy thermometer
1. Roast nuts in a 400 degree oven, about 15 to 20 minutes, in a roasting pan, shaking a few times until golden brown.
2. Meanwhile toast pepitas in a pan on the stovetop over medium heat until they begin to turn brown.
3. Then toast 2-3 tablespoons of coconut until it begins to turn golden around the edges.
4. Finally, toast the oats until they brown as well. Let all ingredients cool to room temperature.
4. Then fill a pot with an inch or two of water and heat to a simmer.
5. In the meantime, have the kids break up pretzels into small pieces and mix with the cooled pepitas, oats and walnuts in a bowl.
6. Break 2 bars of chocolate into squares and add to a large metal bowl.
7. Place the bowl over the simmering (not boiling) water. As the chocolate is melting, add two tablespoons of peanut butter (optional).
8. Bring the chocolate up to 110 degrees for milk chocolate and 115 degrees for dark chocolate.
9. Remove from heat and add the remaining chocolate bit by bit while stirring until the temperature reaches about 90 degrees. The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.
10. Add the nuts, seeds and pretzels to the chocolate and stir to coat.
11. Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased tin foil and add the toasted coconut if you want.
12. Let cool in the fridge about a half hour and dig in.