I try to deny it, but I am often faced with the reality that every one in my family needs food that can be consumed on the run. Kids must bring a snack every day to school (usually eaten at warp speed on the playground). Most afterschool activities, whether cultural or athletic, occur between 3 and 7 pm; without an afternoon snack on hand, kids come home gnawing on their water bottles. Adults who volunteer for the school or the town often must cross mealtime lines to do so. And sometimes I just find myself inconveniently stuck in the car, famished.
Given that portable snacks are an inevitable modern necessity, energy bars have crept into my house. There’s a wall of them at every grocery store, and my house has settled on one brand that provides a quick calorie fix, but is lacking in flavor. After choking down one of these nameless bars a few weeks ago, I became determined to make a bar made from scratch that was comparable in terms of fat and sugar but tasted better.
I started with this chewy granola bar recipe, since they are whole grain and can be flexible in terms of ingredients. The first attempt was tasty: I included almonds, coconut, dried cranberries and chocolate chips. But how do they stack up in terms of the numbers? I made a comparison of the sugar and fat content of my bars with the nutrition label on the name brand energy bar. My first round was admittedly higher in fat and sugar (I have to point out that even at their sugariest, my bars still have far less sugar than ).
For my next attempts, I (sadly) lost the coconut and nixed the nuts (making them school-friendly). I replaced some of the honey with light corn syrup, and swapped the butter for canola oil. I settled on chocolate chips and dried cherries, and voila! The end result has only one more gram of sugar and two more grams of fat than the store bought comparison bar. They are nut free and, if you find the right oats, gluten free. These bars take 5 minutes to mix, 30 minutes to bake, and cost far less than $1 a piece (the price for many energy bars). But best of all, my bars have something those manufactured energy bars can’t have: flavor and texture. Lots of it. That’s worth the extra two grams of fat to me.
Don’t like cherries? Try another dried fruit. Don’t like chocolate chips? Skip them (then put that yummy coconut back in). If nuts are not an issue, by all means replace the chocolate chips with them. But give these a try. They make for some truly enjoyable snacking.
My “I don’t have to eat mass produced energy bars anymore” Granola Bars
1 2/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup oat flour (can use rolled oats ground in a blender or food processor)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 T. canola oil
3 T. water
4 T. light corn syrup
2 T. honey
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line an 8x8 inch baking pan with parchment paper (Spray the pan lightly with cooking spray, lay down one sheet in one direction, spray again, and lay down a second sheet cross ways. Spray the top sheet lightly with cooking spray).
Mix oats, oat flour, brown sugar, salt, cherries, and chocolate chips in one bowl. Whisk together canola oil, water, corn syrup and honey in another bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients. Stir until all dry ingredients are moistened.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan, pressing down on the batter to spread it to the edges. Bake 30-40 minutes until browned.
Cool thoroughly, at least one hour. Remove the bars from the pan using the parchment paper as a “sling.” Cut into 12 pieces (a serrated knife helps here, and if they aren’t cooled thoroughly they can crumble). Store individually wrapped or in an airtight container. They can also be frozen. They keep four days (although they haven’t lasted that long at my house).