Thursday, October 19, 2017

Simple, Soft, and Chewy Granola Bars

Sometimes you need a snack in a pinch. I cannot tell you the number of times we have been rushing out the door for a dance practice with growling stomachs. You don't want to eat anything too heavy or else you will feel like a rock for half the night. The other option is to feel shaky and whiny, staring at the clock hoping someone will kick you out of the studio early so you can get dinner.

Generally, the husband likes to keep protein packed workout bars around the house but I find them too chalky or dense. Granola bars are a welcome alternative but they tend to go quickly and add up on the budget.  This recipe for Simple, Soft, and Chewy Granola Bars is a fantastic treat to you stash in your arsenal.

What's so great about them? They're easy to customize and require no baking time (aside from toasting the oats and almonds) - just be sure to give sometimes to firm up in the fridge! Get funky. Get creative. And customize to your own dietary needs and preferences.

Simple, Soft, and Chewy Granola Bars
slightly modified from Inspired Taste
makes 12 bars

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (80 grams) sliced almonds
1/4 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (50 grams) packed coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (60 grams) dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus mini chocolate chips or carob chips, plus 2 tablespoons (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line bottom and sides of a 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Then lightly oil or spray with cooking spray. Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet then bake 5 minutes, stir and bake another 3 to 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, peanut butter, coconut sugar, vanilla extract and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the mixture is smooth.

Pour butter mixture in to bowl with toasted oats and almonds. Mix well. Let cool about 5 minutes then add cranberries, flax seeds, and 1/4 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Stir to combine. The chocolate chips will melt a little which serves as the glue to hold the bars together.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan then use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. (Press hard so the bars will stay together once cooled and cut — Inspired Taste recommends pressings for about one minute to be extra safe).

Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips (optional) over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Remove block of granola mixture from pan then peel away aluminum foil. Cut into 12 bars.

Store bars in an airtight container for up to one week. For the softest bars, keep at room temperature. For slightly harder bars, store in the fridge.