Monday, June 25, 2012

Homemade Snack Bars

Granola bars are a solid choice as a grab-n-go when you are in a rush.  Choosing a healthy snack between meals can help stave off hunger and are a good way to prevent over-eating later in the day.  However, most of the granola, energy or protein bars found in the grocer (yes, even the organic or 'all-natural' brands) are packed with added sugar and preservatives.  To make your between meal snack, truly a nutritious choice, try this easy recipe to make your own granola bars!

This recipe can be altered to suit your taste preferences.  It is just a combination of whole grains (oatmeal, cereal and whole wheat flour), dried fruit, nuts, a touch of honey, and some eggs to bind everything together.  You can also add in some protein powder or dry milk powder.  Protein powder is expensive, but I know many folks have it on hand already.  DO NOT go out and buy some just for this recipe- dried milk powder is a great, and INEXPENSIVE, way to add a little extra protein to recipes. 

I usually use a combination of dried fruit, so use whatever you have on hand- chopped dates, raisins, dried cherries and craisins all work wonderfully.  I like to use pecans because they have a great flavor- almonds, walnuts and peanuts also work very well. 

Besides the ingredients, all you need is an oven, a baking dish and a food processor (you can use a blender if you don't have the food processor).  Simply blend your dry ingredients in the food processor. 

Add your eggs and honey and blend until flour mixture is moistened.  Press mixture firmly into a greased 13x9 baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.  And there you have it- homemade, and healthy, snack bars.

Homemade Granola Bars
1 cup quick oats
1 cup plain life cereal
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup vanilla protein powder or non-fat dry milk
1 cup roughly chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, etc)
1 1/2 cup your choice of dried fruit (I like doing a blend of chopped dates and craisins)
1 tsp cinnamon or ground ginger
2 Tb honey**
2 large eggs

1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly coat a 13x9 baking dish with non-stick spray.
2- Blend oats, cereal, flour, dry milk (or protein powder), nuts, dried fruit and cinnamon (or ground ginger) in the food processor. 
3- Add honey (**tip- spray the measuring spoon with non-stick spray to prevent honey from sticking to the tablespoon) and eggs and pulse until mixture is evenly moistened. 
4- Dump the mixture into the baking dish and use your fingers to spread the mixture evenly in the pan.  Spray a little of the non-stick spray on your fingers to keep the mixture from sticking to you- this helps you spread everything more evenly.
5- Bake for about 20-25 minutes in the pre-heated oven.  The edges of the mixture should be browned.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Cut into 16 evenly sized bars.  Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely.  These bars freeze well if tightly wrapped.

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