Today's recipe is my pick for the Secret Recipe Club (SRC). Here's how it works. Each of the food bloggers participating in the SRC is secretly assigned another food blog. The assignment is to choose a recipe from that blog, make the recipe (or an adaptation of it) and feature it in a post. The blog matches are a secret to the other blogger until reveal day. That day is today! Make sure you read to the end of this post for links to the other participants and their recipes. Someone will be blogging about one of my recipes, but I don't know who.
Featuring FAMILY FRESH COOKING by Marla
I was jumping for joy when I learned that my assignment was to choose and prepare a recipe from Family Fresh Cooking, because it just happens to be one of my favorite blogs. I've been reading Marla's blog and subscribing to her posts since I first started The Yummy Life. Her focus on healthy cooking is right up my alley. Not only do I love her recipes, but I've learned a lot from her about how to adapt recipes to make them healthier. Marla is a mother of two young children, and she is passionately committed to feeding them whole, fresh, healthy foods. I encourage you to visit Family Fresh Cooking and check out Marla's multitude of healthy, creative, beautifully photographed recipes. There's a video of a TV appearance that is a fun way to see Marla in action in the kitchen.
Granola bars for King-Man
The hard part was choosing just one of the many great recipes at Family Fresh Cooking to try for today's post. I settled on granola bars, because they're something I've been wanting to figure out how to make for a long time. That's mainly because of King-Man. He's an avid hiker and backpacker and he always takes granola bars along for a quick, portable, nutrition boost as he hikes. Here he is on one of many Grand Canyon hikes (this one with our 2 sons) and on a recent 3-week trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest in Nepal:
Every time King-Man is preparing to leave on one of these trips, we buy a variety of nutritious granola bars for him to take along. Some he likes more than others. Every time I intend to figure out how to make them with exactly the ingredients he likes before his next trip. Finally, Marla's recipes have inspired me to do it.
I used ingredients and techniques from two of Marla's granola bar recipes: Toasted Sunflower Honey Granola Bars (easy to customize with whatever nuts or seeds you like), and Telluride Trail Bars (no added sweeteners in this recipe--just bananas; it also has peanut butter and pretzels).
Marla suggests ways you can modify her recipes to suit your individual tastes for sweetness, nuttiness, fruit, etc. I tweaked the ingredients to customize my granola bars with some of King-Man's favorite flavors and nuts. I went for the honey she used in one recipe (that's the primary sweetness and "glue" to hold everything together) and added a hint of molasses. Oats are the primary grain in both of Marla's recipes. I included a big dose of nuts and seeds, because King-Man likes his granola bars dense with nuttiness.
Step-by-step photos for making Honey Nut Oat Granola Bars
Organic Unsulfured Blackstrap Molasses is a natural sweetener that is loaded with vitamins and minerals--iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B & more (source). It has a strong flavor, so a little bit goes a long way. If you don't like the flavor of molasses, substitute maple syrup (as in Marla's recipe), or more honey.
Butter is optional -- I added a small amount of butter for flavor and firmer texture. Tested one batch with butter and one without. Conclusion: the butter improved flavor and texture of the granola bars, but not significantly. Feel free to leave it out, if you're concerned about reducing the calorie and fat content.
Nuts and seeds --substitute whatever you like, as long as you keep the total volume approximately the same. You can also reduce or omit the nuts and seeds and add an equivalent volume of additional oats. In our house, though, the nuttier and seedier the better!
Step 4. Meanwhile, combine the honey, molasses, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and butter in a 2 quart sauce pan. (I used a 1 quart pan here, and it almost boiled over; so I recommend a 2 quart pan.) Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
Step 5. When the oat mixture has finished toasting in the oven, transfer it into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground flax seed and dried fruit (if using). Give it a stir.
Step 6. Add the hot honey mixture to the dry mixture and stir until everything is well-coated.
Step 7. Spread the mixture out in a 9x13 pan that has been generously coated with canola spray. Use the bottom of a greased/sprayed glass to flatten and firmly pat down the mix. Bake at 300 for 25 minutes. Let it cool completely before cutting.
I made two batches. This one with nuts only (no fruit) . . .
. . . and this one with dried cranberries and wild blueberries.
Step 8. Cut the bars. It's easier to cut them evenly outside of the pan. Flip over the pan, and the solid sheet of cooked granola should fall out easily.
Here's how to cut them into even bars that look just like the ones you buy at the store. I used a scraper/chopper, but a large heavy knife will work fine, too. Cut the large slab in half lengthwise, then cut the two halves into quarters. Keep halving each piece until you have 16 even sized bars, as illustrated in the photos below. (Hint: If the pieces are too brittle to cut cleanly without breaking, microwave them for 10 seconds to soften slightly; this makes them easier to cut.)
Here's a bowl of granola bars with dried fruit ...
... and without fruit. I can't decide which I prefer. How about you?
Look at that crunchy, nutty goodness. They're dense and flavorful.
Individually wrapped for convenient grabbing. If you want to keep these on hand to easily grab when you're on the go, wrap each bar individually in a piece of parchment or wax paper. I use convenient pre-cut wax paper deli sheets and wrap mine up like a burrito--fold in the paper on the two ends, and then roll it in the paper lengthwise. Store the wrapped bars in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. They should keep this way for at least 1 week, although they become less brittle and slightly chewier than when they're freshly baked.
Freeze them. These granola bars freeze well. I tested them to make sure. After several days in the freezer, the taste and texture remained intact. That makes these a great snack to make ahead and have on hand. I recommend placing individually wrapped bars in a freezer ziploc or airtight container to extend their life in the freezer and make it easier to remove and eat them.
Nutritional Info (for 1 granola bar--with butter version): 230 calories, 10.9g fat, 30.6g carbs, 3.8g fiber, 18.2g sugar, 5.6g protein; Weight Watchers PointsPlus (no butter versions): 6 points per bar without dried fruit, 7 points with dried fruit.
Thank you, Marla, for inspiring me to figure out how to make these nutrient-packed bars. No telling how many of these will travel with King-Man on his future adventures.
Maybe you noticed that I wasn't present in the backpacking photos. I love nature and day hiking. But, I also want a toilet, shower, and soft bed at the end of the day. So, backpacking isn't my thing. But, I am a walker. Here's a photo of me (taken with my phone) on my early morning walk today. See me waving at you? Well, my shadow is waving at you. I grabbed one of these granola bars on my way out the door. It was a perfect breakfast-on-the-runwalk.
Make it a yummy day!
Honey Nut Oat Granola Bars
Servings: 16 bars
2-1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsulfured blackstrap molasses (or equivalent amount of honey or maple syrup)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1/3 cup ground flax seed
1 cup dried blueberries, cranberries, chopped apricots or cherries--any combination (optional)
Coat a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On separate large baking sheet, combine oats, almonds, and the sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds; spread out in even layer. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in 2-quart sauce pan combine honey, molasses, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and butter. Bring to boil over medium heat; boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. When oat mixture is finished toasting, remove from oven and pour in large mixing bowl; reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Add dried fruit (if using) and flax seed into oat mixture. Add hot liquid mixture to oatmeal mixture and stir until mix is well-coated. Immediately pour into prepared 9x13 pan. Spread evenly and pack down firmly using bottom of greased drinking glass. Bake 25 minutes. Cool completely. Invert pan to remove cooked mixture in one piece. Use large, heavy knife to cut into 16 bars. If too brittle to cut cleanly, heat in microwave for 10 seconds to soften slightly and ease cutting. Store cut bars in airtight container for at least 1 week. TO FREEZE: wrap each bar individually in parchment or waxed paper and place inside Ziploc freezer bag or other airtight freezer container.
NUTRITIONAL DATA (for 1 granola bar): 230 calories, 10.9g fat, 30.6g carbs, 3.8g fiber, 18.2g sugar, 5.6g protein
WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS PLUS (no butter versions): 6 points per bar without dried fruit, 7 points with dried fruit.
Recipe inspired by Marla at FamilyFreshCooking.com
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