Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Homemade, Healthy Peanut Butter Oat Granola Bars

Homemade granola bars. Why have I not made these before?! Maybe it's because I hadn't found a recipe that's as easy as this one. This recipe is no-bake, and it comes together in 15 minutes. So simple!

I found the recipe on a site called Food 52. The comments on the post for this recipe were generally all quite positive, so I had to give it a shot! And I was not disappointed. These bars are excellent. They are full of flavor, healthy, super easy, and very portable. And to me, the fact that they're healthy and portable is the best part - being able to grab one when you're on the go is so handy!

The recipe is also very flexible. The original recipe calls for oats, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), raisins, peanut or almond butter, agave nectar or brown rice syrup, and sea salt. I changed up the original slightly though; the ingredients I used were oats, pepitas, craisins (instead of raisins), peanut butter, honey (instead of agave or brown rice syrup), and cinnamon. I omitted the salt because my peanut butter had salt in it, and the addition of cinnamon was my own change.

I've always been a granola bar gal, but I usually buy ones in the store (Kashi is my go-to brand). Lately though, I've been paying more attention to the ingredients in my food, and I have to say, the ingredients in store-bought granola bars are often less than stellar (even Kashi). So, it was time that I tried making my own! That way, I know exactly which ingredients are going into them and can control how much sugar (and other things!) are in them. Below are the ingredients and instructions for the granola bars pictured in this post. Keep in mind though that the recipe is flexible; I'll share some ideas for other ingredients later on.

-2 and 1/2 cups regular oats
-1 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
-1/2 cup dried cranberries
-2/3 to 3/4 cup peanut butter
- approx. 1/2 cup honey
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)

Mix oats, pepitas, and dried cranberries in a large bowl. Whisk together the nut butter, honey, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. At this point, I've found it helpful to microwave this mixture slightly, for just 10 to 20 seconds, as it softened the mixture and helped it come together. Whisk the peanut butter and honey mixture a bit more, and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix well, until the oat mixture is well-coated and everything is combined. If it feels too dry, add a little more honey.

Press mixture into a 9 x 9 (or even a 13 x 9 pan might work; your bars will just be a bit thinner) that is lined with saran wrap, foil, or parchment paper. As you can see in the picture below, I actually used my mini loaf pan, and it was perfect. Use whatever pan you have though. Press the mixture firmly into the pan, and cover with more saran wrap or foil. Refrigerate for at least 3 or 4 hours. Cut into bars (unless you use a mini loaf pan), and enjoy! Bars can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can wrap them individually in saran wrap for an easy grab n' go option, or you can store them in an airtight container. Makes 8 to 12 bars, depending on the size you make them. 

In the past week, I've made these bars twice now. That's how much we like them! And I think I will continue to make them on a regular basis. I'll probably try substituting different ingredients though from time to time. Here are just a few ideas... Raisins, craisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, cinnamon chips (I put cinnamon chips in the second batch I made!), any flavored baking chip really, other dried fruits (apricots, dates, etc.), various nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), and other nut butters as well (almond butter, etc.). So many possible combinations!

Also, if you do have a mini loaf pan, I highly recommend using it when you make these. It totally negated the need to cut the bars (obvi). One less step is always nice! I bet you could even make these into granola "bites" by using a muffin pan. Perhaps I'll try that next time I make these (which, let's be serious, will probably be tomorrow).

I got a new camera recently, so I went a little wild taking photos. But the high number of pictures in this post positively correlates with my love for these granola bars...

So delish!

Have you ever made your own granola bars? Do you have a favorite recipe? Favorite ingredients? I'd love to hear new recipes and ingredient ideas, so please do SHARE! :)

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