Saturday, February 8, 2014

Granola Bars

Keeping healthy snack foods around is one of my challenges.  There are seasons when fresh fruit and vegetable options are pretty limited, and there certainly aren't many healthy ready-made snack options to purchase.  I was looking for a low-sugar snack to make when I had a group coming over this week, and I found a great recipe for Grab'n'Go Granola Bars at Southern Distinction.  I tweaked them a bit based on what I had around and what is available here, and I was really excited with how they turned out, so I thought I'd share.

Granola Bars
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans from my stash I had from the States, but I think almonds would also work nicely in these. Any kind of nut you enjoy would work but would just change the flavor a bit.)
1 cup oats (I used the quick-cooking ones, as those are all that is available here.)
1/4 cup flaxseeds (These can be hard to find here but are available.)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2/3 cup unrefined sugar (I used a brand of "mineral sugar" that is sometimes available here, and I've included a photo below. Demerrara or even the local brown sugar would work. Really, regular brown sugar would work as well. I was just trying to go for as unrefined of an option as possible to maximize the "healthiness.")
1/2 cup honey
3 Tablespoons molasses (I kind of just dumped a bit in, but I think around 3-4 T.)
50-60 grams butter (3-4 Tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan pink salt because it is easily available here and much healthier than regular table salt.)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups puffed rice cereal (This is sometimes available here but there is also a local puffed rice that would easily work.)
1/2 cup dried fruit (I had planned to use some apricots which are available here now, but they were bad when I took them out, so I ended up subbing dried blueberries that I had on hand. Many options could work well for this, even raisins.)
1/4 cup shredded coconut

(Mainly from Southern Distinction but edited slightly for what I did.)

Preheat oven to 350°F/175C. In a large bowl mix together nuts, oats, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds. Spread mixture onto a baking sheet and bake until fragrant - about 5 minutes. (The quick-cooking oats start to burn if left much longer, but if you are using regular rolled oats, you could leave it a couple extra minutes to give the nuts and seeds a more toasted flavor.) Transfer the mixture back to the large bowl. If you don't have an oven, you can put the mix in a large pan over low heat on the stovetop and shake occasionally until it starts to become fragrant.

In a medium sauce pan combine sugar, butter, honey, molasses, and salt. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until sugar has dissolved and a light brown caramel forms - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour caramel all over oat-and-nut mixture. Stir in puffed rice, dried fruit, and coconut and mix until evenly coated.

Line an 9x13 baking pan with foil, extending a bit over the sides. Lightly oil the foil with a bit of cooking oil so that the mixture doesn't stick. Scrape granola mixture into the baking pan in an even layer. Use a second sheet of lightly oiled foil (or waxed paper would work well, I think, but I didn't have any), and press down to compress the mixture. Let it stand for 2 hours or until firm. Using the overhanging foil, lift out the cereal square and transfer it to your counter top or work surface. Cut into bars or squares. Store in an airtight container.

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