Back To School, Back To School


Thanks to everyone yesterday who left me mollifying words about Orgo. To those of you who said that I might find it easier than Gen Chem: you made my day. It may not prove to be true, but just knowing that some learners find Gen Chem harder is comforting, because I really struggled with Gen Chem. So we’ll see: I can handle superhuman amounts of work, and I’ve got nothing but diligence. I just can’t handle buffers problems.

Speaking of Gen Chem, on the day after my final this past August, I met up with my good friend Kathy for another installment of the Kathy Gena Show! We had so much fun filming our first segment: if you missed it, check it out here. We’re trying to keep them seasonal, so for episode two, we moved from summer entertaining to everyone’s favorite September theme: back to school.

Starting life as a student again threw me a lot of curveballs: adjusting to a new set of disciplines, settling into the strange sensation of no longer being the youngest kid on the block, re-learning good study habits, and realizing that in the seven years since I graduated college, no one uses AIM anymore. One of the challenges that was most distinct was learning how to pack food and make food for long days of class, when I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to be near my kitchen.

Fortunately, I’m a foodie, so this was the least of my challenges. I quickly came up with lists of tried and true foods—snacks and lunches and sometimes dinners—to get me through the semester. They include:

Not everything is this creative, of course. Some days I live on snack bars and PB+J like a normal back-to-college kid. But I do try to keep things innovative and nutrient dense.

When Kathy suggested a back to school edition of the K + G Show, I knew she’d have kid-friendly recipes down pat—she’s built her career on making little ones savor their veggies! I also knew I’d have a few tricks of the trade to contribute for the K-12 set, but that my main strength would be sharing a tip or two for grown up students (like yours truly). To wit, in episode 1, you’ll see that I share my technique and logic for building a delicious grain salad—quick, packable, and filling. Meanwhile, Kathy has some amazing tips on putting together the healthiest and tastiest kid’s lunchbox, ever!

In episode 2, I share quick tips for snack-packing, and then I make my famous banana sushi. These are GREAT portable breakfasts for the grown up raw food lover or for the special kid in your life. Since most kids are likely to squirm at the sight of a collard or romaine or Boston lettuce leaf (my go-to options), go ahead and use my instructions for making this recipe with a whole wheat wrap in place of greens. Either way, it’s a perfectly packable breakfast option!

And I’m lucky to have Kathy’s valuable feedback as I go along:


Also mentioned in the video are my fantastic sunflower oat bars. Willie made them recently and wrote a whole dedicated post to celebrate them. Check out his review here!

Need a recipe reminder? The banana sushi are a simple how-to, found here. And below is the recipe for the bars:


Five Minute, No-Bake Sunflower Seed and Oat Bars (Vegan, semi-raw, can be soy or gluten free)

Makes 10-12 bars

2 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats (substitute gluten free oats if needed)
1 cup sunflower seeds (raw or toasted)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup carob chips (or cacao nibs)
2/3 cup nut or seed butter of choice
1/2 – 2/3 cup agave nectar or brown rice syrup (adjust based on how well things stick together)

1) Mix oats, sunflower seeds, raisins, and carob chips in a large bowl.

2) Whisk together nut butter and agave. Pour into oat mixture, and mix well, till everything is sticky and combined. If it’s too dry, add a bit more agave.

3) Press mixture into a shallow baking dish that you’ve lined with foil or saran wrap. Cover with more foil/saran, press well into the baking dish, and refrigerate for 4 hours. Cut into bar shapes, wrap, and keep refridgerated till ready to use. They ought to last two weeks at least.


4) After mixing wet ingredients with dry, crumble mixture into bite sized pieces and bake at 375 degrees for about forty minutes, or until crispy and brown.


5) Follow step 4 until you get to baking, and dehydrate for 10 hours at 115 degrees instead for a more-raw option.

Enjoy! And if you want another idea, check out the no-bake PB bars that Kathy just posted on!

May all of my student readers, mothers, fathers, and friends of students have a happy, healthy, and nutritious fall semester.

So guess what? I’m on in NYC. Again. I’ve got a fabulous wedding to attend this weekend, and the good news for you all is that the food promises to be top-of-the-line: I’ve already had some really promising email exchanges with the wedding planner. Stay tuned for the recap!


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  1. Terrific ideas and so much fun, Gena! Already excited for the new edition!

    (FYI, I haven’t seen any of your new posts…your site has been stuck at Aug 31, Day 3 of conference. For some reason, I’m not getting updates.)

  2. Love the videos! Great ideas and recipes. Will def be trying some of these out in back-to-work (err..starting to work!) lunches.

  3. I’m a teacher so I’m trying to get ready for Back to School too! I’ve been making a lot of tasty salads (after I learned how to make more satisfying ones by reading one of your other posts!) And I really want to try the no bake sunflower oat bars. They look delicious and easy to make. I’ve also decided that I want to go back to school too (looking at a spring start) and become a nutritionist or dietitian. I had a question for you about that. What do you think about taking the registered dietitian path? Like you, I might not agree with everything I learn, but I want to be able to help as many people as I can.

  4. I made your watermelon slushy today for my mother and I. She claims not to have had a banana in over 60 years because she doesn’t like them. I told her after she raved about her slushy serving that she was eating banana! The slushy was delicious and perfectly sweet.

    Your raw bars look tempting too.

  5. Absolutely LOVED the videos you two– you guys make a wonderful duo team and are naturals ๐Ÿ™‚ Can’t wait for more G + K food entertainment! Definitely gained a lot of ideas as far as healthy and easy packable lunches as I’m at school full time now and need on the go meals.

    Made your sunflower seed oat bars but subbed coconut butter for sunflower seed butter and goji berries for some of the raisins and added pumpkin seeds! Definite hit taste and look wise!

  6. Love the back to school edition, starting my final semester next monday, woo woo! And those no-bake bars are amazing; pure genius. They are my new go to snack bars now. x

  7. Love the back to school tips. And for the record – I was one of those weirdo’s who loved organic chem and hated gen chem. Then again…hate math, love stats. You’ll do great ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Have a great time at the wedding! Can’t wait to read about the food and NYC. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And hope the first week of school goes smoothly, chem and all! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. I love the videos and it’s nice getting to hear what you sound like! Thanks for the inspiration as always ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. The snack bars look and sound great. I’m a big fan of no-bake energy bars myself. So many ways to take them…nut butter choices, add in’s like choc chips, dried fruit, other dry ingredients like seeds or coconut flakes or whatever I have on hand to incorporate. I love sunflower seeds & sunflower seed butter!

    And raw banana breakfast sushi…blast from the past. I remember that post so well!

    I hope you have a fab weekend in NYC and are able to catch up with good friends and visit your old stomping grounds!

  11. Fun videos! I pack my lunch and snacks each day for work so I can always use new tips.

    Agave or maple syrup in a tofu scramble?! Never would have occurred to me.

    I really love the grain salad. I always cooked grains on hand and rarely consider them for a salad.

  12. Thank you SO much for this post!! This is the first semester I am at school almost all day and after my first week, I was already running out of packable lunches. I’ll be revisiting this post often ๐Ÿ™‚
    Oh and I’m a Dietetics major and am currently studying for my Organic Chem final…Yuck. But I just tell myself that the means are definitely worth the end. Keep your vision for the future always in sight…beyond those blasted molecular models!

  13. I’m so excited to try this year out again with not only your Healthy College Dining tips, but these as well! I bought a cheap $20 handheld blender for smoothies and I have granola bars for emergencies as well as hemp seeds to put in a container for lunch.

  14. Thanks for the recipe, Gena! I had a huge energy bar fail last week but these look very tasty and much more manageable than most recipes out there. They will be a huge help this fall whole I go back to school and start my internship ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Your videos are fun to watch! I love that you picked Back to School as your topic this week. Packing food is such a big deal to me because on my work days I’m away from home for 14+ hours, in a hospital that doesn’t offer many healthy food options. Hearty salads, bananas and nut butters are my go-to portables. I’m going to try your sunflower oat bars, they look delicious & easy to make.

  16. You guys are welcome to pack my lunch any day! I really need to start making my own snack bars. I’ve been buying far too many Laras for on-the-go snacks lately. Those oat bars look awesome. Oat bars are actually something I would have to make on my own, because I haven’t found any GF oat bars yet. Thanks Gena! Your food is always the greatest. Seriously.

    Have fun at the wedding!

  17. I’m also in New York City this weekend with a swank wedding to attend! In fact, I thought of you just a few minutes ago while ordering the Green Lemonade at Peacefood Cafe. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Your sunflower oat bars really are the perfect back-to-school snack. I’m sure my fridge will be well stocked with them this entire semester! (And actually, I’m developing my own variation on them AS WE SPEAK; hopefully I’ll have a recipe worked out soon.)

    Also, if anyone is looking for another great high-energy, back-to-school, may I recommend my coconut cream pie vimbits (date donut holes)?

  19. I have a feeling I’m going to become besties with your and Averie’s raw date balls and trail mix this semester. I totally picked my schedule to allow me to sleep in, cook meals and generally have a lot of free time. The joys of being an undergrad.

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