Thursday, May 9, 2013

Granola Bars


I have a bit of an issue with many granola bars or healthy snack bars you find on store shelves these days. Most of them are marketed as being wholesome and nutritious, when really they are just a chocolate bar with an identity crisis. Recently, my dad and I went through the ingredients list of his beloved Fiber One bars and had a much easier time finding multiple forms of sugar and preservatives on the list than any fiber! Now, I'm not trying to get on my healthy hippie soap box here, because I enjoy a chocolate bar myself pretty frequently (my freezer always has a stash of assorted chocolate bars in it), but I think if you're going to make the effort to buy a bar for healthy snacking then the ingredients should be nutritious and full of things you can pronounce.

My solution to all of this is to just make my own granola bars so I know exactly what is going into them and so that I can customize them to include my favourite ingredients! Yes, my granola bars still have sugar, but I don't mind at all since they are packed with other healthy ingredients that make them the perfect combination of sweet, chewy, and crunchy, while giving me lasting energy. They are so much better than anything I have found at the store, and they couldn't be easier to make at home. I encourage you to take an hour, make a couple pans of these, and stash them in the freezer so you can grab a bar at your convenience. They make a great quick breakfast or coffee break snack, and I'm sure kids would love to find one packed in their lunch bags.

Ingredients:

1 and 2/3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup white or brown sugar
1/3 cup oat flour - If you don’t have oat flour just grind 1/3 cup of oats in a food processor or blender until it is a fine powder. You may be able to substitute whole wheat flour but I haven't tried it.
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 and 1/2 cups dried fruits and nuts - For my bars I used about 1 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup chopped almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, and 1/2 cup chia seeds. You could also try using: raisins, dried apricots, dried cherries, dried apples, dates, pecans, walnuts, coconut, sesame seeds, flax seeds, or chocolate chips. You can chop your fruits and nuts coarsely with a knife or food processor, or leave them as is if you want a chunkier bar.
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. olive or canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8"x 8" or 9"x 9" baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides to use as handles to lift the bars from the pan. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan with butter or a non-stick cooking spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a small saucepan, heat the peanut butter, oil, honey, and water over medium-low heat until smooth, stirring constantly. Stir in the vanilla extract and then pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.

Spread the granola bar mixture into the prepared pan, packing it in firmly using your hands or the bottom of a glass or measuring cup. Ensure the bars are tightly molded to the shape of the pan.

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are golden brown around the edges. They may still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but they will set completely as they cool

Completely cool the bars in the baking pan on a wire rack. Once cool, cut the bars into squares or rectangles using a sharp knife. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes, then take them out and cut while they are still cold. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. These bars freeze well for longer storage.

 


*Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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