Thursday, November 7, 2013

Granola bars - keep those famous mid morning hunger pangs at bay with a healthy treat

Do you have some 'grab & go' kind of recipes you keep handy? Much as I would love to sit down and eat every meal in a relaxed way with my family, it is not realistic. Especially, the week day mornings, we seem to hardly have time to eat something nutritious without worrying about it also being delicious. If both of us start the early morning off with meetings/calls, it sets a different pace and tone to the rest of the day and I try to plan for those frequent occurrences.

Then there are days I am out, need to be heads down in work or occasional travelling, I prefer to keep some ready made stuff that my folks can fall back on if their mega plans to make an elaborate meal in 'amma's absence' comes to a stand still for some valid but mostly invalid reasons :-). While BH & I enjoy our morning bowl of Oats most days, I have not been able to make DD fall in love or even tolerate the gooey stuff. So she gets other stuff for breakfast which is a mockery of breakfast because most days she has all of 2 minutes to eat before she has to run out the door. And then her carb and correspondingly energy levels are down by mid day. I should put this on my list to ask my mom on our next phone call about what I did when I was a teenager :-), hope what she says doesn't crush my ego.
High school is a huge transition from lower grades, all those circle time, snack time are long gone and so are the gold fish, cheese & crackers. In high school, most teachers seem ok with kids eating in the class as long as they do not disturb/distract others or make a mess. So DD likes to pack something to curb her mid day hunger pangs. Most days it is her favorite chick peas + avocado salad, or some saltine crackers but ever since I made this granola bars at home a couple of months ago, it has been granola bars that she carries every day. Says she could eat oats in that form any time :-), makes me laugh with joy as I can load them up with ingredients I know are good for her.

Why make granola bars at home when there are atleast a hundred different varieties stacked up, nicely wrapped for easy carrying in the grocery store aisles? Not trying to be a 'super mom' by making everything from scratch and at home. As you know I have my semi home made tricks to save my day when needed. Alluring as it was to bring a box of granola bars from Costco and stick it in for quick energy refreshers, as we tried different brands of these bars over the years, we found some to be too chewy (like card board), some way too sweet, some had ingredients we didn't care to put in our systems - what can I say, we are a picky bunch. We gave up the search for the perfect family approved nutri bars after many attempts while I kept coming across multiple versions of home made granola bars.
You will see an ingredient in the list below that may not sound familiar unless you have a background of Middle Eastern or Persian food. Don't worry if you do not have it, it is not a deal breaker here. Zereshk is a berry in dry form, rich in vitamin C with a sharp acidic flavor. Dried version tastes closer to dried cranberries but more tart. A good friend shared an entire bagful with me earlier last month, these berries are used as garnishing in Persian rice and give a very yummy burst of tang. I have just been popping handfuls into the mouth so far and added them into the bars here.

This is a very easy to make granola bar, you can customize it with your choice of dry fruits and nuts and make it your own. I started with 3 Tblsp brown sugar and have reduced to 1 Tblsp now, I will not recommend changing the quantity of the liquids very much because you need them to coat the dry ingredients an provide enough binding strength. You can add honey instead of maple syrup or keep it vegan as I did here.

What do you need to make Granola bars?
Source: Various on internet
Dry ingredients:
3.5 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes (I used sweetened variety)
1 Tblsp brown sugar
**10-12 almonds
6-8 wlnuts
6-8 pecans
6-8 pistachio
1 Tblsp each of raisins, dried cranberries, dried blueberries
1 Tsp Zereshk (I used it since I had it))
Wet ingredients:
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1 Tsp vanilla

1 Tblsp nutella :-) - key to my daughter's happiness kingdom
** Nuts & dry fruits should make approximately 1 cup
How do you make Granola bars?
  • Prepare a baking pan - I used a 11X7in baling pan with edges and the bars were about an inch & quarter in thickness. Cut and lay out a sheet of parchment paper in the pan and tuck in the corners. Give a light coating of non stick baking spray, I used my canola oil spray.
  • Pre heat oven to 325F.
  • Arrange the nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, sunflower seeds or any other choice) in a baking sheet and toast them until fragrant (7-8 minutes, watch the oven so they don't burn) - Pre toasting the nuts gives a very fragrant aroma to the bars though you can use raw nuts directly.  
  • Take the nuts out, let them cool a little bit so you can handle them, chop up into small bits.
  • Mix oats, toasted nuts, coconut flakes and all other dry ingredients in a big bowl until they are uniformly distributed.
  • Add the wet ingredients and mix it well so that everything is coated nicely.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and using a flat & heavy dish, smoothen the surface while packing them up tightly - This is important to get the bars without them crumbling up, keep pushing the mixture down all the time - See notes below.
  • Spread nutella on top - make designs if you are creative :-), see notes below to know what I did.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, take out the pan and let it cool completely before cutting them up as bars or squares, use a sharp knife to cut through the bar.
  • I spread another layer of parchment paper on top of the mixture and use the bottom of a heavy, flat cup to actually hit it down. Don't directly use your hands as oats keep getting stuck :-)
  • Since nutella refuses to fall down in dignity, I put it in a zip lock bag, cut a tiny hole at the bottom (very much like the cones you make for piping pastry toppings or henna designs) and pipe it out.
  • The reason my nutella is seen in blobs at some places is because I didn't notice that my zip lock came with its own hole which added to the double squirt, but then DD said nutella chunks tasted great, a win-win :-)
  • You can use melted chocolate instead of nutella or skip it altogether.
  • We like the texture of whole oats in this bar, if you like make a coarse crumble (do not powder) of oats.


NamsVeni Pothas said...

this is some thing very interesting recipe with attractive pictures. i too like Granola bars . they are very good when you are hungry.

LG said...

Very good post. Mid morning breaks are important alva.

Btw, nerale hannu mara ide mane hatra illi. We got it from there :)

Wer SAHM said...

love it a guilt free snack

Anonymous said...

Very nicely explored and well written blog, a mouth watering, yet healthy snack! This is the way to go blogger, nicely done. Look forward to enjoying this with family :)

Priya Suresh said...

Omg, granola bars are just irresistible, would love to start my day with this health bars.