Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Homemade No-Bake Granola Bars

Granola bars are one of the best snack foods. They're portable, so it's easy to have one with you, no matter where you are. I like having them around when I'm traveling, and in my gym bag as a pre-workout snack (or post-workout snack!)

They're packed with lots of energy-rich food, like oats, nuts, and dried fruit. Best of all, when you make them yourself, you can decide what to put in them! Feel free to switch out any of these ingredients for your favorites - you can switch out peanut butter for any nut butter you prefer, and use your favorite nuts and dried fruit instead of those listed. Coconut would be a great addition. You can even add chocolate chips! However, if you are doing that, I would recommend waiting until everything has cooled slightly, so you don't melt all of the chocolate.

I know you might be wondering, well why would anything be hot if these are no-bake bars?? You do end up heating things - you heat the honey and peanut butter together, so they're liquid enough to coat everything well. And you toast the oats and nuts for better flavor. If you don't want to turn on your oven, you can skip that step, but I would recommend using pre-toasted ingredients if possible. For the part on the stove - well you can use your microwave if you really don't want to turn on the stove. These are called "no-bake," because you don't have to bake the bars once you press them out in the pan.

Recipe: Homemade No-Bake Granola Bars
Yield: 16 large bars or 24 small bars

Ingredients:
2 cups rolled (old fashioned) oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 3/4 cups seeds/nuts (we used 3/4 cup pecans, 3/4 cup almonds, and 1/4 cup of a sunflower/flax seed combo)
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit (we used 1/2 cup chopped dried plums and 1/2 cup raisins)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F and line a large baking sheet with foil. Mix together the oats, wheat germ, and nuts, and spread out on the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them so they don't burn.

Line a glass 9x13 pan with wax paper, and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small pan (I like using a small nonstick frying pan to make it faster), mix the honey, peanut butter, salt and vanilla over low heat, until melted and well mixed.

Pour the toasted oats and nuts in a large bowl, and add the dried fruit.

Pour the melted honey and peanut butter over, and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Dump out into the prepared pan, and use an offset spatula to press down evenly. Make sure you press down really hard - this will prevent the bars from falling apart later.

Cool completely before cutting - it works best if you have refrigerated them first. The bars keep well in the fridge, since it prevents them from being sticky. If you would prefer to eat them at room temp, just pull them out of the fridge one or two at a time, about an hour before you want to eat them.

You can cut these into however many bars you would like. If you want them to be the typical "granola bar size," you can cut them into 16 bars (8x2). You can make them a bit smaller, and cut them into 24 bars also (6x4). I have included nutritional information for both sizes below. I find that it's easiest to lift up the wax paper, and put the whole thing on a cutting board. Use a large, sharp, non-serrated knife and press down firmly with each cut.

Nutrition (for 16 bars/for 24 bars):
247 calories/165 calories
12 g fat/8 g fat
32 g carbs/21 g carbs
4.5 g fiber/3 g fiber
6.8 g protein/4.5 g protein

The calories might be a bit high in the large bars, but they're packed with so much good stuff!

Nuts and oats, freshly toasted

Honey and peanut butter melted. 
Don't mind my dirty stove...

Nuts/oats in a large mixing bowl

Prunes/raisins on top, honey/peanut butter mixture ready to be poured


Action shot!

Start mixing everything together until it looks like the picture on the right

Press everything down REALLY firmly, so you have compact bars that don't fall apart

Finished product!

Close up - you can see what a great job Joey did of cutting them