Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bake a Better Granola Bar

Ready for a challenge? Send your kids to school with healthy, homemade granola bars next week. The best part about making your own granola bars is that you can make them with exactly what you want in them - fruits, nuts, chocolate, added fiber, anything! My daughter's school is peanut free, so I use sunflower seeds, flax seed, chia seeds, coconut, chocolate chips and walnuts. They are unbelievably delicious and packed with vitamins and minerals. Soaking your oats, cracked cereal and walnuts is highly recommended - the bars will be significantly more nutritious, and soaking makes the oats naturally sweeter, reducing the need to additional sugar.

4.5c Thrive Instant Oats, Soaked*
1/2c Chopped Raw Walnuts, Soaked *
1/2c Thrive 9 Grain Cracked Cereal, Soaked*
1/2c Thrive Whole Wheat Flour
1/2t Thrive Salt
1c Honey
1/4c Butter
1/4c Coconut Oil
2t Vanilla Extract
Optional (choose at least 2): 1/4c Ground Flax, 2T Chia Seeds, 1/4c Mini Chocolate Chips, 1/2c Chopped Peanuts (or any other kind of nut), 1/2c Peanut Butter (or other nut butter), 1/2c Sunflower Seeds, 1/2c Shredded Coconut, 1/2c Dried Fruits (raisins, craisins, Thrive apple slices, Thrive banana chips, chopped figs),

*Soaking: combine oats, walnuts and cracked cereal with 1-1/2c warm water, 1/4c whey, buttermilk or plain yogurt and 1/4c Thrive whole wheat flour. Stir well to combine, cover and leave on the counter overnight or for up to 24 hours. Drain any remaining liquid (there might not be any), then spread everything out on a large cookie sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours or until crisp. Yes, this is a time consuming step that requires you to plan ahead. Yes, it is absolutely worth it. You can always make a double batch and freeze half for next time!

In a small sauce pan, combine honey, butter, oil and vanilla. If you are going to use peanut butter (or another nut butter) add it at this step. Heat the mixture on medium heat until simmering and frothy. Continue to cook the honey, stirring frequently, until the froth has disappeared. This is a very important step - if you don't cook the honey long enough, your granola bars will fall apart later!

While your honey is heating, combine the remaining ingredients and your choice of mix ins. Stir all of the dry ingredients together, then pour the honey mixture over the top. Mix very well and press firmly into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into bars or squares. Store in an air tight container.

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