Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gourmet Granola Bars

WARNING! These granola bars aren't just for kids! This is definitely a snack that grown-ups (or at least those that like to think they are grown-ups) and kids alike will LOVE.

Several months ago I began purging our pantry of most processed foods - particularly those containing high fructose corn syrup. But I do have kids that like to snack, including two that are very active adolescent boys who are growing by leaps and bounds. Yes, they do like fresh fruits and yogurt, but I still needed some healthier alternatives for items that were quick and easy to take on the go - like granola bars.

I found several recipes online but none that I was 100% thrilled with, so I took the parts I liked from each of them and this is what I came up with.

A Little Disclaimer: This is a very healthy, natural snack - and quite yummy, but by no means is it a low-fat or low calorie food. However, it is full of lots of protein and fiber and great for an energy boost before soccer or lacrosse practice (or when you get so busy you forget to eat lunch).

Gourmet Granola Bars

2 cups oats (I use 1 cup of regular rolled oats and 1 cup of steel cut oats - I like the consistency that gives)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup wheat germ (I use untoasted)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup or so chopped dark chocolate baking chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 10 x 15 baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, whole wheat flour, chopped dark chocolate chips and salt.

You can use one of these mini food processors to chop your dark chocolate chips or you can do it by hand (personally, I thought it was easier by hand).

As you can see here, there are some normal size chocolate chips in the bowl. Occasionally, I'll get a whim and throw in a few regular semi-sweet chocolate chips (especially if I don't happen to have quite enough dark chocolate chips in the pantry).

Next, form a well in the center of your dry ingredients and add the honey (Tip: spray your measuring cup with cooking spray and the honey will pour out very nicely), beaten egg, vegetable oil and vanilla.

Now is the fun part - get those hands in there and mix well. (Yes, I know the picture shows a spoon - but I couldn't have taken the photo had I not used it. Believe me, your hands work much better.)

Spread evenly onto baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. (Do not over bake or you may find yourself visiting the dentist.)

Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes.

Cut into bars and continue cooling for a few more minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack. (Do not wait too long to cut them or it will be impossible as these set up very quickly.) Store in an air tight container.

These make great on-the-go snacks, but they are also really good heated in the microwave for a few seconds then washed down with a big glass of milk.


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