Monday, August 22, 2011

Homemade Granola Bars

I feel like I need to tell you this before I share this delicious recipe: I'm one of those nerds who resists the easy way. I'm kind of what you would call an "Over Achiever". Otherwise known as "One Fry Short of a Happy Meal". 

Whatever you prefer to call it, I just can't seem to figure out how to take the easy way. I'm the one huffing and puffing up the stairs in the airport carrying my huge suitcase and over-sized purse while everyone else sips martini's on the way up using the escalator. The people on the escalator, those folks have sense, me on the other hand, maybe a little less sense. 
These Nutty Oat Protein Bars were born out of one of these "Over Achiever" moments. We were planning a camping trip and I knew we would need snacks for hikes, but I resisted buying the snacks and instead decided to try my hand at "Granola Bar-Making".
I did some research, bought the necessary ingredients and hunkered down in the kitchen. 
The first batch was soft and sort of fell apart. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you prefer softer chocolate chip cookies and the like, you will probably like the softer version of this granola bar.
However, not everyone in my household prefers things that way, so I took some and placed them on a baking stone and heated them in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until they were darkened and crisp. Then I melted some peanut butter chips in the microwave and dipped the tops of them in the melted peanut butter for good measure.

The results were delicious. I was happy with the softer variety, but adding the crisp and the peanut butter coating really spruced things up. You could also add chopped walnuts, dried cranberries or raisins. Dates could be delicious too! Hey, whatever you have that makes you feel inspired, just toss it in and give it a shot!

I encourage you to try it both ways, or start with the soft variety and if you don't like it, just throw them in the oven like I did and try the second, more crisp and sweet variation.

Here's the recipe! Enjoy!

Nutty Oat Protein Bars
2 Cups Oats
1/2 Cup Flax Seed
3/4 Cup Sunflower Seeds
1 Cup Peanuts; Crushed
1 Cup Walnuts; Chopped
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Creamy All Natural Peanut Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar Free Syrup
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

For Crisp Variation:

1/4 Cup Peanut Butter Chips

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flax seed, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and walnuts. Toss with a spoon to combine. Then place the mixture on a clean baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check every 5 minutes and stir so you avoid burning the oats or nuts. Then remove from the oven and return the mixture to a large bowl.
3. In a medium sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, peanut butter, syrup, vanilla extract, and salt. Heat over medium heat and stir together with a whisk until it is smooth. Remove from heat.
4a. For the soft variation: Pour the syrup mixture over the toasted nuts and oats. Stir with a spatula until the syrup mixture has coated everything. Then place un-greased wax paper in a 9 X 13 baking pan and transfer the oat and nuts to the baking pan. If you don't have wax paper you can also use plastic wrap which I had to do. Press the mixture down with the spatula until it is evenly distributed and packed really tight. This is what will hold the bars together when they cool. 
5a. For the soft variation: Allow the bars to cool for 2-3 hours. Then slice and wrap them in cling wrap or just eat them right then and there!

4b. For the crisp variation: Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Pour the syrup mixture over the toasted nuts and oats. Stir with a spatula until the syrup mixture has coated everything. Then place the mixture in a 9 X 13 baking pan. Press the mixture down with the spatula until it is evenly distributed and packed really tight. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes.

5b. For the crisp variation: Turn the cooled bars onto a large cutting board and slice into 14 even bars using a large sharp knife. A few crumbs will fly, but those can be your little treat. Microwave the peanut butter chips in a microwave safe bowl for 30 second intervals and stir using a fork until they are smooth and shiny. Dip the top of each granola bar into the melted peanut chips. Or spread the melted peanut chips over the top with a large butter knife or cake froster. Set on a flat surface and allow to cool completely (about another 20-30 minutes). The peanut butter chip topping should be firm to the touch. Wrap the bars in plastic wrap and they are ready to go!

Servings: 14

Nutritional Skinny:

216 calories / 13.7 g fat / 18.8 g carbohydrates / 4 g fiber / 7 g protein

Mental Health Tip: These most nutritionally resemble a Cliff Bar or a Power Bar. The higher fat content is due to the fact that we have added so many nuts and seeds. These are the 'good' kinds of fat or the kinds that raise our good cholesterol or what's called the HDL, so don't get too worried. Enjoy these on a hike, after a bike ride, or just as a mid-day slump fighter!


Jr. Chef Libby said...

YUM YUM! Granola bars are a HUGE staple at my house so these will be perfect to try, thank you! Your blog is great- the pictures, title, and writing style all make for great reading. Please visit me at my blog, if you get a chance, it would mean a lot to me. Thank you!

Hot Mess Cooking said...

Libby - thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the compliments and I love your blog too. Blogging is a great excuse to keep cooking and eating! Cheers!