Monday, January 31, 2011
Homemade granola bars
My daughter and I recently made homemade granola bars. You might ask why we should make them when there are so many "good-for-you" granola bars on the market. The truth is, as we checked the list of ingredients on these products, they were so loaded with sugar, fat and calories we decided they really weren't so good for you after all. Many of them have glutens and candy added to make them taste better.
To make them healthier, we used more wholesome ingredients and made sure to exclude those things that contain allergens -- especially gluten and peanuts. Ours were lower in sugars, too. We used brown rice syrup and honey. Brown rice syrup was something I had never even heard of before. I was a bit surprised that the flavor was so mild -- kind of like sorghum syrup but milder, also not as sharp as honey. I know I will be using this sweetener more often.
The bars were really quite easy to make. First we mixed all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
We used brown rice puffs with no sweetener. You can use any puffed rice cereal but this cereal was made from puffed rice. One-ingredient cereals are hard to find these days.
We mixed brown rice syrup, honey and vanilla flavoring then brought the mixture to a boil for ten minutes. We had to keep this mixture "stirred down." Sugars will easily boil over it you don't. This turns the sugars into a "candy coating" and causes the bars to harden and hold together.
After ten minutes we stirred in the almond butter, then poured it over the dry mixture.
We made sure the dry ingredients were well-coated.
And pressed the mixture into a stone cookie sheet with sides covered with parchment paper.
We pressed the mixture evenly into the pan by wetting our hands and patted the mixture until the air was removed and it was firm and ready for the oven.
We then baked it for about 15 minutes until it was browned around the edges. The mixture separated from the side of the pan a bit. After they had cooled about 15 minutes, but before they were hard, we cut it into bars. This was the hardest part. They were not as easy to cut as we thought they would be. Some of them, we had to shape a bit. Our goal was to make them look like commercial bars. They are kind of thick and they are quite chewy when done. We stored them in a large plastic container.
We considered the bars a success because our 5 year old even liked them. It is an accomplishment to get a five year old to eat anything that is even slightly healthy.
Homemade Granola Bars
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons almond butter
3-1/2 cups granola (We used Arrowhead Mills granola that was sweetened with fruit juices)
5 cups puffed rice cereal
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped almonds or macadamia nuts
1-1/2 cups raisins
Substitutions to give your bars a different flavor: Peanuts or any kind of nut can be used instead of almonds or macadamia nuts. Peanut butter can be used for the almond butter. Unsweetened coconut can be used for the pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Dried cranberries can be used instead of the raisins.
In a 2 quart saucepan, combine brown rice syrup, honey and vanilla. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often so that mixture doesn't boil over.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour hot syrup over the mixture and stir until dry ingredients are well coated.
Line a 12" x 17" pan with sides with parchment paper. Press mixture into the lined pan, using wet hands.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until edges are lightly browned. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and remove baked bars using the parchment from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 36 bars. Store in a plastic bag or container.