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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Homemade Nutty Granola Bars

In the not-so-distant past, I was an addict for a certain brand of "protein" bars. Never mind that they had a chocolate outer layer. Forget that the ingredient list had a slew of things I couldn't identify. Ignore the fact that I always seemed to have a crash about an hour after eating one.

"But they have like 20 grams of protein," I'd say to myself, searching the label to confirm that this was indeed true and wondering why I was so tired and already hungry again.

And then I listened to a nutritionist talk about sugar.
And the one thing I walked away with was the fact that because sugar is measured in grams, many of us really have no idea what is 5, 12 or even 25 grams of sugar.

Her hint: there are approximately four teaspoons of sugar in a gram, so divide your total number of sugar grams by four, and you will have (roughly) how many teaspoons of sugar are in your item.

The particular bar that I was eating had more than four teaspoons per serving...and none of it was coming from fruit. Instead it was coming from corn syrup, invert sugar (whatever that is?!), fructose syrup, and then just sugar (which was listed on THREE separate occasions in the ingredient list).

But the bars were so EASY! I could be eating one while working with a student after school or running up to the library for a staff meeting. I could eat one while walking my dog or driving to the store. And now that I have a little one, grabbing a quick bar would be so nice. So what can I do?

Then I came across these Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars from Oh She Glows and immediately fell in love. Not only are they incredibly easy, but unlike a lot of other bars I have tried, these travel REALLY well!

This is the second time I am making a version of these bars this week. Since I made these a few days ago at my parents' house, they have also fallen in love with them, and I figure that my parents would appreciate me leaving them some here when I depart tomorrow (especially since the first batch has almost been entirely devoured).

You'll see that I did tweak a few things from the recipe above. I am usually grabbing bars for hikes, picnics, a car ride, etc. and added an egg to make them just a tad firmer for travel purposes. Also, since I am at my parents' house, I used a bunch of ingredients that they already had around the house (cashews, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, etc.), thinking that these may be items that others also have laying around, making this recipe even easier!

But these bars are incredibly simple to change up, too. I have omitted the chocolate before and added chia, hemp, and sunflower seeds. I've added shredded coconut. I've tried raisins and dried cherries (and dried cherries were, by far, my favorite dried fruit to add so far!), and I've doubled some nuts and cut others.

No matter what, though, they never leave me with a sugar crash and they totally curb my hunger and travel well! I usually just wrap them in some parchment or wax paper with a rubber band or (if I want to bring several) just put them in a small glass container. Enjoy!

Yields around 20 bars

2c rolled oats
3 medium/large bananas
1 large egg
1tsp pure vanilla extract
1tsp cinnamon
1/4tsp fine sea salt
1/2-3/4c dried cranberries
1/2-3/4c walnuts (chopped)
1/2-3/4c diced almonds
1/2c cashews (chopped)
1/2c pumpkin seeds
1/2c mini chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, dark chocolate, etc. (optional)
Coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place parchment paper in a large, greased rectangular baking dish (I used a 9x13in glass dish, because I like my granola bars a bit thinner, but a smaller dish would yield slightly thicker bars) and lightly grease the parchment paper with some coconut oil.

Place the rolled oats in a food processor and pulse 7-10 times until the oats are coarsely chopped, but still with lots of texture. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl.

In the same food processor, add your bananas and blend until the bananas are creamy (less than a minute). Then add your egg, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and sea salt and blend until all are mixed together.

Golden brown
In the large bowl (that already has the oats) add the cranberries, walnuts, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips. (This would also be the time to add hemp seeds or chia seeds, too!).

Then pour the pureed bananas over the dry ingredients and mix until everything is covered. Pour the mixture into your pan and bake for 25-30 minutes (I did 28) until firm and the edges are a golden brown.

Place the dish on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes. Using the parchment paper, pull the bars out completely and let cool (or stick in the fridge or freezer). Slice into bars once completely cooled.

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