Bars for snacking, packing and saving:
Of all the "good for you" foods granola is the most seductive. What with all of its oats and fruits and that delightfully crispy texture it is no wonder we eat two to three times the actual serving size. Check out the next box you find at the supermarket; most servings are only about a fourth of a cup which doesn't look like much in the bottom a big cereal bowl. But if granola is so good for us why do we have to restrict its raptures to a meager fourth of a cup? Of course, there are plenty of brands that pride themselves on returning granola to its wholesome origins. My personal favorites are:
- Bear Naked - pros: great variety of products, cool company story, overall sound nutrition cons: 1/4 cup serving size
- Kashi - pros: lots of products, love the oatmeal raisin cookie bars, 1/2 cup serving size, products are consistently high in fiber and protein cons: high price when off-sale
And while making your own granola bars takes a little time (about 15 minutes with this version) it is a huge savings in the long run. A canister of rolled/instant oats, a box of raisins and a jar of honey will set you back about five dollars and dish up way more than the 12 ounce bag on the grocery store shelf it is worth the elbow grease. Plus, you can make the ultimate customized bled with just a few extra ingredients. Want chocolate chips, cherries and pistachios? Maybe pumpkin seeds, apricots and almonds? Now you can have it all; just use this recipe as a jumping off point (ditch the marmalade and use 3 tablespoons each of honey and brown sugar). This recipe is sweetened largely by the flavor of the orange marmalade and the cinnamon which I really love; be sure to get a good chunky marmalade with lots of sweet fragrant peel for the most orange flavor and little bites of sweet peel.
Note: This isn't your typical saccharine packaged bar that sticks to your teeth and fingers; you'll need to see the man in the funny hat for those.
I found this recipe at the Pioneer Woman's recipe log Tasty Kitchen; if you don't know who she is yet check out her amazing blog at http://thepioneerwoman.com/ New obsession? I think so.
Orange-sesame granola bars:
Adapted from a recipe @ tastykitchen.com
2 cups oats, rolled or instant
1/2 cup almonds, chopped or slivered
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup raisins
1. Heat the largest skillet you can find in the tri-cities area over low heat. Then, lightly butter a 9 x 9" square pan and set aside.
2. Toast the oats, nuts and sesame seeds until they are fragrant and toasted; 8-10 minutes. Keep an eye on the nuts and sesame seeds and don't let them burn.
3. Remove the oat mixture to a bowl.
4. Melt the butter, marmalade, sugar and honey over low heat, stirring constantly. You want it to start to bubble and be totally combined.
5. Toss the oats, seeds and nuts into the butter mixture and coat thoroughly. Add the raisins and cinnamon and toss again.
6. When everything is thoroughly coated pour the granola into your pan. I like to place a sheet of foil over the granola and press down firmly with the bottom of a glass to really pack it in. Don't be shy here. The more muscle you put into it the sturdier your bars will be.
7. Remove the foil and cut the granola into bars. If you like, sprinkle them with a little extra cinnamon. Make them as big or as small as you feel necessary; mine made about a dozen snack size bars. Let the bars cool totally and harden for at least 15-20 minutes before storing in an airtight container. They should remain a little pliable and soft. I promise my bars won't see the other side of the weekend so I can't say how long they last but feel free to weigh in in the "Comments" section if you have some stragglers!
1. Measure your own nuts and fruits at the grocery store. You will pay less for packaging and be able to fit more fruits/nuts into your budget.
2. Check out health food stores and Asian markets for interesting products like sesame seeds, flavored honeys or unsweetened dried fruits.