Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do-It-Yourself: Granola Bars

One of my favorite blogs is 101Cookbooks, which is where I came across a recipe for Power Bars, but some of the ingredients weren't very interesting to me, so I set it aside for another time.  I finally got around to making them with a couple of substitutions (for the things I didn't like) and they turned out pretty good, but a bit too sweet and fairly gooey.  So, I tried again and again and again.  All of them tasted pretty good, but were sticky or falling apart or something just wasn't quite right.  I gave up for awhile because I was getting sick of granola bars.  Until one day when we were out of honey - I called up the lady I met at a local farm event who lives just a few miles from our house and has this amazing honey with a cinnamon flavor.  Unfortunately she was out of town, but she told me of a few local places that carried her honey - so I stopped in at a coffee shop to pick some up.  Of course I had to get a chai tea latte while I was there, how could I resist.  Anyway, while I was ordering my latte, they had samples of a homemade granola bar that was quite incredible!  It had lots of peanut butter and one of the ingredients listed was maple, so I went home and tried a new version of the "power bars" and came up with my favorite one so far.

Although the one I like has peanut butter in it and quite a bit, you can make it without if you are not a peanut butter fan.  You could also try other nut butters to see if you prefer that taste.  These are quite easy to make and very yummy too.  And, I promise that you will be able to pronounce all of the ingredients - unlike the ingredient list on some store bought granola bars.  And the best thing about it is that you make it what you want.  You add the nuts you like, the dried fruit you like and whatever nut butter or cohesive agent you prefer.

Oil sprayer
2 cups chopped nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/2 cups rolled oats*
1 1/4 cups crispy brown rice cereal* (or something similar to Rice Krispies)
3/4 cup natural (no sugar added) peanut butter*
1/2 cup brown rice syrup*
1/3 cup maple syrup (not maple flavored corn syrup)
1/4 cup sucanat or sugar
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, blueberries, etc.)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In 9x13 inch baking dish toast nuts and coconut for about 7 minutes, stirring once.  When coconut is starting to brown, they should be thoroughly toasted.  Mix nuts, coconut, oats, cereal and dried fruit in a large bowl, set aside.  Spray pan with oil sprayer and sprinkle chocolate chips over the bottom of the warm and now empty baking dish; set aside.  Combine the peanut butter, rice syrup, maple syrup and sugar in a microwave safe bowl or in a saucepan over medium heat.  Microwave until the mix boils, about a minute.  Stir halfway through, add vanilla and then mix again.  Pour the syrup mixture over the oat/nut mixture until evenly incorporated. Press mixture into pan with chocolate chips using wax paper.  Allow to cool and then cut into whatever size bars you prefer.

*Side notes:  To make these gluten free, use gluten free oats and gluten free brown rice cereal. As mentioned earlier, you can use cashew butter or almond butter or any other nut butter in place of the peanut butter.  I have tried making these granola bars without the brown rice syrup, but honey made it too sweet and too sticky.  I believe the brown rice syrup really helps keep these bars together.  If you live in WI and have a Woodmans in your area - start there first, they should have it in the organic/natural aisle and it is more affordable than the health food stores.  If you are in CO, Vitamin Cottage carries brown rice syrup.  As for the rest of you, try Whole Foods, I believe they have it there or if you have a local co-op store or health food store, they should have it as well.  If you do not like peanut butter or other nut butters in your granola bars, then increase the brown rice syrup to 1 cup and eliminate the nut butter.  And you can decide whether or not you want the maple syrup in the granola bar.  The chocolate chips are optional as well.  They do make a bit of a mess on your hands when you eat them, because unlike M&Ms, chocolate is supposed to melt in your hand.  If you mix the chocolate chips into the other ingredients instead of putting them on the bottom, they may just melt in and go unnoticed.  But these are your bars, so do what you want!

To get a printable version of the recipe without pictures, click on the Recipe Title.  Hope you enjoy making your own granola bars.  Your family and friends will love them too!  

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