I stopped buying processed snacks for my kids about a year ago. I am not a health freak but, I started to see how much processed food they were getting outside the house that I made a decision to reduce the total amount by not having any in our cupboards. My kids adapted really well and know to never ask for those items at the grocery store but, I have become known as the mom in the neighborhood with the lame snacks. Apple slices, pears and string cheese are not bringing the kids in the front door. One thing that I continued to buy last year was cereal bars. My kids ask for one about 3 days a week. One morning I was looking at the box and read that there are over 40 ingredients in them. Many of the ingredients I had no idea what they were. Earlier in the year my nutritionist insisted I cut bars out of my every day menu and have them on hand as an emergency food. Why had this correlation with the kids bars not clicked at that time? At this fully caffeinated moment I realized I could do more then ban goldfish crackers. I made a pact to find better replacements for some of the processed foods that still lingered on my shelves. I am really excited to share these over the next few months. We have had a lot of fun in the kitchen experimenting. The granola bars are a work in progress. I started out with this recipe from King Arthur which is really good but, there are still many ingredients in this recipe I knew I could swap out. I concocted a loose formula which seems to work and is great because you can experiment with all different flavors. I often use up fruit and nuts I bought for a salad or I have the kids get creative with the bin choices at Mother's. Below are a few flavor combinations that have worked for me but, the possibilities are endless.
SPICES *suggestions: cinnamon, ginger, salt, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract etc.
DRIED FRUIT (1 cup) *suggestions: cranberries, blueberries, banana chips, dates, pineapple, coconut etc.
FUN (1/4 - 1/2 cup) *suggestions: carob chips, chocolate covered berries, yogurt chips etc.
STICKY (~3/4 cup) * I typically mix two stickies. 1/3 - 1/2 cup of one and 1/4 cup of another. See examples below. *suggestions: honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave etc.
BINDER (1 cup) * I make sure there are at least 6 tablespoons of a fat source. That could be nut butter, coconut oil, melted butter etc. * suggestions: almond butter, peanut butter, pumpkin puree, unsweetened applesauce, greek yogurt, apple butter, banana puree, egg whites, melted butter, coconut oil, neutral oil etc.
Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x9 pan with a parchment sling.
In a large bowl mix together all of your dry ingredients. That includes grains, nuts, seeds, crunch, dry spices, fruit and fun stuff. If you are going to add a bit more stick by way of sugar toss that in here.
In a medium bowl whisk together your sticky sweetener, liquid spices, and binder.
Pour the liquid mixture into your dry mixture and gently fold/mix the two together until all the dry ingredients are coated.
Turn the mixture into the prepared pan. Make sure it is spread evenly and then press and pack the mixture down into the pan.
Bake for ~30 minutes. The top will get a tad brown. Remove from oven and allow bars to cool in pan for 20 minutes. When bars are cool then place the pan in the refrigerator or freezer for approximately 30 minutes. Once bars have set up use the parchment sling to remove bars and slice.
Bars store in an air tight container for a week or in the freezer for 2 months.
Enjoy! Have a delicious and healthy day.
Note: I store them in the freezer as they do get a bit crumbly. If would want them a bit stickier then toss the oats in a 1/4 cup of sugar (brown, white or turbinado).If you want to boost the protein you could add soy or hemp protein powder.
Banana Honey Carob Granola Bars (The Elvis) - Kids current favorite 1 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant) 1/2 cup oat bran 1/2 cup wheat germ 1/2 cup brown rice cereal 2 tablespoons chia seeds 1/3 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, crushed 1/3 cup banana chips, crushed 1/3 cup pretzels, crushed 1/4 cup carob chips 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/3 cup honey 1/4 cup brown rice syrup 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter 1/2 cup banana puree ~ 2 medium brown bananas
Follow directions above.
Almond Cranberry Dark Chocolate Granola Bars 1 1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant) 1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup brown rice cereal
1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chocolate covered cranberries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup greek yogurt