Monday, 22 March 2010

Home-made granola bars

Sometime halfway between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner my blood sugar levels reach dramatic lows that have significant detrimental effects on my concentration, my attitude towards the people around me and god knows what else. That's when I need an energy booster. Preferably not chocolate. But something filling and sweet...but healthy.

Granola bars - also known as breakfast or muesli bars - are, in my humble opinion, the perfect mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. Especially when consumed together with a fresh piece of fruit or yogurt. For those of you who are not devout followers of a meal-sized breakfast like myself, these bars make for a decent breakfast on the run as well. I'm no nutritionist, but reading about the nutritional values of each granola bar I come across words like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, high in fiber, minerals other elements that I've been told are good for you.

As for most varieties sold in Austrian supermarkets being WAY too sweet for my taste (supermarkets in the UK have a fairly decent selection though), and thus don't really pass the 'healthy' part of the snack, I've decided to just go ahead and try my own. And after a few failed attempts...which nonetheless resulted in yummy self-made granola for topping plain yogurts ...this one my winning recipe so far.

Ingredients (makes 16 bars)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup muscovado sugar
  • 1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (like canola/rapeseed oil, sunflower or grape seed)
  • 1 medium-sized, ripe banana, pureed with a hand blender
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of good quality, flaky sea salt
  • 2 cups of porridge oats
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a 30x20cm (or equivalent square version baking tin with non-stick parchment paper
  2. Mix oats, almonds and coconut, then spread the mixture evenly on baking tray and put in the oven for 10 minutes or until the coconut turns really fragrant and takes on a bit of color
  3. In the meanwhile, combine the pureed banana, honey, oil, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has melted and the mixture (except for the oil which floats on top) has come together
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine all the remaining dry ingredients plus the oats, almonds and coconut once they're done in the oven
  5. Add the banana-honey-oil mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well (every last bit of dry crumb should be covered, otherwise the bars don't hold together that well)
  6. Pour into the prepared baking tin and use a rubber spatula to spread out evenly. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and press down
  7. Leave to cool completely before transferring to the fridge for another 1-2 hours so that bars, once you cut them, don't fall apart
  8. Carefully turn the set mixture onto a large cutting board (or another sheet of parchment paper on your work surface) and use a large sharp knife to cut the mixture into whatever size of bars you prefer
  9. You can store them in airtight containers at room temperature for a couple of weeks (make sure you put sheets of greaseproof paper in between to prevent them from sticking together). But I prefer to keep them in the fridge, wrapped individually in greaseproof sandwich wrappers. Like that they stay nicely solid and are just a simple grab away from being added to your lunchbox or for a breakfast on the run.

Munch away!

Tips for adapting
Well, endless, I guess. But I keep repeating myself here. Yet it's true. Lets start by substituting dried cranberries with other dried fruits (raisins and dates are a natural fit). Or leaving the fruits out entirely but adding more nuts. Chopped walnuts, peanuts or hazelnuts work just as well as the almonds I've used. Rice krispies or any other cereals are another option. Slightly toasted sesame seeds are also a healthy and tasty addition to your very own version of home-made granola bars. Should you try them out, please let me know what combination of ingredients you've used and how you like the outcome.

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