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Monday, June 4, 2012

naked granola bars

When pregnant, I absolutely had to have some kind of food on hand at all times. I quickly discovered that if I did not have a granola bar, piece of dried fruit, of something in my bag when I was out, that would be the time I got suddenly ravenous and faint. We burned through a lot of granola bars, and I discovered that I really don't like many brands out there. Besides flavor, there are the ingredients. Preservatives, and always, always high fructose corn syrup. What's the deal with HFC?! I was at the drug store this morning looking for infant acetaminophen drops for my 8 month old son and finally, after about 30 minutes of looking and 2 assistants helping me, found one, a CVS product, tucked way at the back of the baby section all by itself and nowhere near all the other infant pain relief products on aisle 13. I hate high fructose corn syrup. It's in everything, the filthy stuff. So, back to last year, I decided one day I'd had enough of buying granola bars. I would make my own. I already made my own granola, so how hard could it be?

What I have here is fairly similar to the recipe on Joyful Abode with which I began, but I have altered a few quantities and ingredients, just a bit, to produce what I think is a nicer bar. We call them "naked" because there is nothing but pure natural goodness with real ingredients in this.

Naked Granola Bars

Lightly toast in 400F oven for about 10 minutes:
2 c oats
1/2 c wheat germ / baker's bran/ oat flour
1/4 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c seeds
1 c nuts, bashed into pieces with mortar and pestle

Bring to a rolling boil in saucepan:
3/4 to 1 c honey, or part honey and part black strap molasses
4 Tb salted butter
3 tsp vanilla
no extra salt needed

Mix dry with wet in large bowl with 1 c mixed dried fruit as desired.

Press into a large casserole dish lined with wax paper. Press with paper on the top as well, and an oven mitt as it will be quite hot, and pack mixture down firmly, pushing to all sides and flattening evenly. Leave to cool. Cut into bars, and store individually wrapped in cling film and in an airtight container. Lasts weeks.

Pictured here is a batch of energy packed granola bars made for a tired pregnant mama. I used 50:50 honey and black strap molasses which give these bars their dark color, added 1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter, raisins for fruit, flax seeds, and about 2/3rd cup of chocolate chips pressed into the top of the tray before cooling, chilling, and chopping up.

The calorie load for this basic recipe: Of course, variations will affect things somewhat, but at least this still provides a general idea for those who care. Make the basic recipe using all honey, no sugar, as prescribed, flax seeds, 1 c mixed nuts, and 1 c mixed dried fruit. Cut the cooled casserole dish shape bar into 28 pieces. I was typically getting 14 out of a batch already, sometimes 16, and breaking the bars in half when I needed a snack. Cutting them into that portion size that suits me is no more difficult than the extra wrapping and makes life just a little simpler as they are already in the size I need. So, one batch making 28 bars = 149 calories each! Or do the math for differently sized bars based on this number. It's also kinda fun to make granola bites instead of bars. 

 On the left are peanut butter and chocolate chewy bars, made with honey, ground flax seeds, and whole chia seeds. On the right, a tropical bar made with honey, chopped pecans, ground flax and whole chia seeds, finely flaked coconut, papaya, and cranberries. I mixed the (untoasted and raw) seeds with the glue before adding the rest of the dry mix in, as chia seeds are so small and tend to sneak off the bars more easily.

Naked Granola Bar Variations:

Peanut butter chewy bars:
  • use sesame seeds in dry mix, no added nuts, and no vanilla in the wet
  • reduce honey by 2 Tbs
  • once wet is cooked to 'glue', add 1/2 c peanut butter
  • use raisins for the fruit

Thanksgiving bars:
  • use almonds in the dry mix, and orange extract instead of vanilla in the wet
  • use dried fruit-sweet cranberries for the fruit, and while mixing add a very small amount (about 2-3 Tbs) of white chocolate chips

Mama's Milk (lactation) bars:
  • use flax seeds in dry mix
  • add to dry mix after it has been toasted -- 1 Tb each of crushed fennel seed and fenugreek seed, 2 Tb ground red raspberry leaf herb, and 1 c coconut flakes
  • replace 1/4 of honey with black strap molasses and proceed with 'glue' boiling as usual
  • as fruit, use a blend of raisins and chopped dates

If you want to add chocolate chips to any recipe, it is easiest to use frozen chocolate as these don't then turn into a sticky mess when pressing on to the top of the hot bar mixture in the pan. Or you could spread a thin layer of melted chocolate all over the top of the cooled bars, chill to set, and dip your knife in hot water to cut cleanly into bars. (If using homemade chocolate, be sure to temper it properly or the granola bars won't do well at room temperature.)

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