With the first week of school almost done, homework will soon be on the horizon for many and will last until Christmas break. With homework, comes a tasty afterschool snack.

How can an afterschool snack help with homework? Try working on an empty stomach - thinking about getting something to eat will be a big distraction and on the mind instead of work. Great thing about snacks is the ability to continue working while eating.


Crunchy Caramel Corn

Serves 6

4 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking sheet

10 cups plain unsalted popped - from 1/2 cup kernels or a 3.3-ounce bag microwave popcorn - popcorn

1 cup cashews, coarsely chopped -optional

1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar

Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter a large rimmed baking sheet; set aside. Place popcorn in a large bowl; if using cashews, add to bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring butter, sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons water to a boil, stirring constantly. Working quickly, drizzle popcorn with sugar syrup, and toss.

Spread popcorn evenly on prepared baking sheet. Bake, tossing occasionally, until golden and shiny, about 40 minutes. Transfer hot popcorn to parchment-paper-lined baking sheet; let cool.


Pita Nachos

Serves 2

1 regular size (6 inch) whole-wheat pita, split in half horizontally and cut into quarters

1/3 cup mild salsa, plus more for serving - optional

1/2 cup shredded cheese (2 ounces), such as cheddar or Monterey Jack

Heat broiler, with rack set in top third of oven. Arrange pita pieces in a single layer, cut side up, on a baking sheet; dividing evenly, top each first with salsa, then cheese.

Broil until cheese has melted and edges of pita are crisp, around 2 to 4 minutes. Serve with extra salsa, if desired.


Popcorn Balls

Serves 12

2 tablespoons butter

1 bag (10 ounces) mini marshmallows

12 cups plain unsalted popped popcorn, (from 2/3 cup kernels)

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts

1/2 cup raisins

In a medium nonstick saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Add 1 bag (10 ounces) mini marshmallows; cook, stirring, until melted, 10 to 12 minutes. In a large bowl, combine 12 cups plain unsalted popped popcorn (from 2/3 cup kernels), 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, and 1/2 cup raisins - be careful not to mix in any un-popped kernels.

Pour melted marshmallows over popcorn mixture, and fold to combine. You will need to work quickly since the sugar in the marshmallows hardens as it cools. Rub a little butter into your hands to prevent sticking, and gently form 12 balls, each about 2 1/2 inches across; place on waxed paper. Let set until cool and firm, about 10 minutes.


Pizza Crackers

Serves 2

8 square whole-wheat crackers

3 tablespoons jarred marinara

3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon thawed frozen chopped broccoli

Heat broiler or toaster oven. Place 8 square whole-wheat crackers on a broilerproof baking sheet.

Dividing evenly, top crackers with 3 tablespoons jarred marinara sauce and 3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese. Top half of the crackers with 1 tablespoon thawed frozen chopped broccoli.

Broil until cheese has melted, around 2 to 3 minutes.


Banana Yogurt Smoothie

Serves 12 to 14

8 bananas

3 cups vanilla yogurt

2 cups apple juice

2 cups milk

Cut 4 bananas into chunks; place in blender. Add 1 1/2 cups yogurt and 1 cup apple juice. Blend until smooth, adding 1 cup milk to thin as it blends. Pour into glasses; and repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.