Mix up a batch of granola bar goodness

Kansas City StarOctober 8, 2013 

Baker Chelsea Williams definitely has a sweet tooth, but she’s also health-conscious, so her snacks have to satisfy both appetites. Her solution: homemade granola bars.

“It’s so satisfying and very sustaining, but it has enough sweetness that it doesn’t leave you with that craving,” says Williams, who owns Chelsea’s Bakehaus in Kansas City, Mo.

Williams’ granola bars are loaded with dried cranberries and blueberries, plus lots of nutritious pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. She sweetens them with maple syrup and brown sugar.

That’s the perk about making your own granola bars: You can overload them with your favorite ingredients.

“It can also be cheaper,” says Anne Mauney, a registered dietitian and food blogger based in Washington, D.C.

The top recipe on Mauney’s blog, Fannetastic Food, is for no-bake peanut butter granola bars that take just five minutes to make. The vegan bars are made with oats, peanut butter, seeds and brown rice syrup, a sticky sweetener that helps meld the mix.

“People are always looking for portable, quick, healthy snacks,” Mauney says. “I love those granola bars because you can wrap them in foil and throw them in your purse.”

Prepackaged granola bars would be even easier, but many of those contain staggering amounts of sugar and a long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients, Mauney says. She prefers making bars that are low in sugar and high in fiber, protein and healthy fats.

Plus, homemade granola bars are a great snack for kids, Mauney says. Because they’re relatively easy to make – no knives required! – kids can even help make them.

Our pick for a family-pleasing recipe is the chocolate chip granola bar from the new cookbook, “ Weelicious Lunches,” by Catherine McCord (William Morrow, 2013). The bars taste as good as chocolate chip cookies, but the top ingredient is old-fashioned rolled oats. That makes them healthier and cost-effective: A batch of 30 costs less than $4 to make. And most of the recipe’s ingredients are pantry staples.

Homemade granola bars can be easy to make, but they’re not foolproof. Williams found out the hard way that it’s best to combine wet and dry ingredients just before baking.

“Don’t let it sit overnight,” she says. “By the next day it’s this dry, sawdusty stuff that you cannot salvage.”

Overbaking is almost as disastrous. The edges get hard, bitter and burnt-tasting. If that happens, don’t throw out the whole batch: If the center is still soft, break it into crumbles and pretend you meant to make loose granola.

Experimentation is part of the fun, says Williams, who’s working on recipes for chocolate and espresso-flavored granola bars. There’s only one ingredient she has decided to ban.

“Bacon,” Williams says. “I think it would be really popular, but I don’t want to go there.”

To see printable recipes, click on link below:

Chelsea’s Gluten-Free Granola Bars

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Five-Minute No Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Chelsea’s Gluten-Free Granola Bars These overloaded bars are big enough to share – but so good, you won’t want to. If you aren’t sensitive to gluten, use conventional old-fashioned rolled oats and 2 tablespoons of whole-wheat flour instead of 6 tablespoons of gluten-free flour. From Chelsea Williams of Chelsea’s Bakehaus in Kansas City, Mo. 2 1/2 cups gluten-free oats 1 cup whole almonds, lightly toasted 6 tablespoons gluten-free flour (Chelsea prefers Bob’s Red Mill, which contains garbanzo, tapioca, sorghum and fava flours and potato starch.) 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 cup shelled seeds of choice (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, flax or a combination) 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal 1 1/2 to 2 cups mixed dried fruit (we used cranberries, cherries and nectarines) 1 cup honey, agave syrup or maple syrup 1/4 cup olive oil, canola oil or melted unsalted butter 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-by-8-inch pan (or double the recipe for a 9-by-13-inch pan) and line with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper.

MIX oats, toasted almonds, gluten-free flour, salt, seeds, brown rice cereal and dried fruit. In a saucepan, warm syrup, oil (or butter) and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved, then add vanilla.

POUR hot liquid over the oat mixture and stir together well. Press into pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until lightly golden. Mixture will harden as it cools so be careful not to overbake. Cool for 10 minutes, then cut into bars of desired size.

Per bar: 314 calories (28 percent from fat), 10 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 52 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 84 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber. Yield: at least 16 bars Chocolate Chip Granola Bars This cost-saving (and crowd-pleasing) recipe makes 30 granola bars for less than $4. Wrap the bars individually, and they’ll keep for up to three weeks. From “ Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box With More Than 160 Happier Meals,” by Catherine McCord (William Morrow, 2013). 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut 1/3 cup packed brown sugar 1 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or other dried fruit) 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 cup canola oil 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 cup honey

PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

COMBINE oats, flour, coconut, brown sugar, chocolate chips and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil, vanilla and honey. Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir to combine.

SPREAD granola mixture on a baking sheet and shape it into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle that’s about 1 inch thick. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and dry to the touch.

COOL on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut into 3-by-1-inch bars using a serrated knife.

Per bar: 136 calories (43 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 18 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 34 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber. Yield: about 30 bars Five-Minute No Bake Peanut Butter Granola Bars Sticky brown rice syrup sweetens these hunger-satisfying vegan treats, which are studded with nutritious pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Mix it up by swapping almond or sunflower butter for peanut butter. From Fannetasticfood.com 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal 1/4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional) 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (optional) 1/8 cup finely ground flaxseed (optional) 1/2 cup brown rice syrup 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

MIX oats, brown rice cereal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, plus coconut and flaxseed, if using, together in a large bowl. In a separate (microwave-safe) bowl, mix together brown rice syrup, peanut butter and vanilla extract, then microwave them for about 20 to 30 seconds. This will make it easier to mix and add to the dry ingredients.

POUR wet ingredients over dry and mix well. Put the mixture into a shallow pan and flatten it down. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before slicing into bars.

Per bar: 144 calories (45 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 15 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 60 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber. Yield: about 12 bars

Gish: sarah@inkkc.com; Twitter: @sarah_gish.

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