>> Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a box of granola bars? While there are definitely some bars out there with decent ingredients, the ones I seem to see the most in lunch boxes have ingredient lists that disgust and shock me. Take, for example, Quaker Oats Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars, a staple in our household before we started really paying attention to ingredients:
GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, BROWN SUGAR, CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT], WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED WHEAT, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN AND COTONSEED OILS* WITH TBHQ AND CITRIC ACID ADDED TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL WITH NATURAL TOCOPHEROL ADDED TO PRESERVE FRESHNESS, DRIED COCONUT, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SOY LECITHIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NONFAT DRY MILK), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT), CORN SYRUP, CRISP RICE (RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, BARLEY MALT, SALT), INVERT SUGAR, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, GLYCERIN, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL*. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SORBITOL, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, WATER, SOY LECITHIN, MOLASSES, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), CITRIC ACID.Holy moly! Partially hydrogenated oils are listed not once, but twice! But, of course, they can still claim to be trans fat free because the total amount of trans fat is less than 0.5 g per serving. They make a big deal out of being "Made without high-fructose corn syrup" but the bars still contain invert sugar (sucrose broken down to glucose and fructose) and corn syrup solids. It's not all bad, but it certainly isn't good either. But, to make up for the massive ingredient list, the taste is a definite kid pleaser.
Well, guess what? The taste of my homemade granola bars is also a definite kid pleaser, and I can control exactly what goes into them. They're a cinch to make, and probably cheaper per serving than store bought granola bars (though I haven't done the economic analysis to actually confirm that statement).
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've seen my granola bars before...more than once even. I've tweaked it just a bit and wanted to share the latest and greatest (in my opinion) incarnation of this recipe. For this latest version of my granola bars, I've replaced 3 tablespoons of butter with applesauce. This replacement did not significantly change the texture or flavor. (I should note that I tried using even more applesauce and less butter, but I did not like the end result.)
Feel to use whatever nut butter you like or leave the nut butter out all together. I've had friends and readers tell me all sorts of wonderful modifications they've made to this basic granola bar recipe - mashed banana, coconut, raisins and other dried fruits. You're only limited by your imagination! (And maybe your child's taste buds.)
Nutty Granola Bars
3 cups rolled oats (quick oats are fine)
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon (optional)
5 TBSP butter, softened
3 TBSP unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup honey
3 TBSP and 1 and 3/4 tsp packed brown sugar
3 TBSP nut butter of choice (optional)
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
3 TBSP flaxseed meal or wheat germ (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9"x13" pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
Firmly press mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 325 F for 20 min or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 min and then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving. (This is so important! They'll be very crumbly until they are absolutely cool.) On hot summer days, might want to store in the fridge so that they're not as crumbly and the chocolate doesn't melt.
Makes about 24 bars