Just when you think there can’t possibly be any room left in the granola or energy bar categories, a new product comes to market. It’s kind of like the ever-changing yogurt category. The best thing about energy bars is convenience. As for any ‘miracle’ energy boost you can’t get from other healthy food, unfortunately not. These bars are typically quite simple combinations of grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and various sugars binding them together into a bar. If it happens to contain a little coconut, dark chocolate (aka cacao nibs) or hemp seeds, some believe it may have more health-enhancing properties than if simply made of less trendy oats and rice crisps with a few peanuts. Most of them are quite similar nutritionally. The exceptions are those that are higher in protein for the addition of whey, hemp or other protein powders. Ask a qualified sport nutritionist and they’ll tell you that a peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole grain bread will supply pretty much the same nutrients as an energy bar, but in a less portable, less convenient, easily squashed in your pocket format.
I recently came across a delicious granola bar recipe that inspired the version below. To bind together the wholesome oats, brown rice crisps and seeds, it uses real brown sugar and corn syrup. (On more costly trendy bar labels, ingredients that react similarly in your body are the healthier sounding organic brown rice syrup and cane sugar.) Grocery store corn syrup and/or organic corn syrup for home use is NOT the same thing as HFCS (High fructose corn syrup) used in many lousy heavily processed foods. My recipe even has a little salt. I won’t say eat at your own risk, but rather, enjoy making these wholesome treats with your kids. They’re delicious. It’ll be hard to eat just one. Teach your kids that granola bars aren’t really healthier than most cookies. But, by making them yourself you can manage what goes in and avoid the super long ingredient lists of commercial bars. Those often contain added artificial ingredients or preservatives to make them more shelf stable.
If you prefer these bars to be gluten-free, use certified GF oats and GF brown rice crisp cereal in the recipe. Encourage your kids to customize them with their favourite flavours and add-ins. Some examples follow.
Crispy Chuey Granola Bars Makes 30
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 2 cups brown rice krispies cereal
- 1 cup sunflower seeds, not toasted
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds, not toasted
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, mini are best as they’ll disperse further
- 1 cup golden seedless raisins, chopped finely
- 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped finely
- ¾ cup soft butter, non-hydrogenated margarine or solid coconut oil at room temperature
- ½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 3/4 cup golden or light corn syrup (this is not high fructose corn syrup)
- 1½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350⁰C and line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper. (15 x 10 x 1 inch)
- In a large bowl, mix together the oats, rice krispies, seeds, chocolate chips, raisins and dried cranberries.
- In another bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients until blended and smooth.
- Pour wet ingredients into oat mixture and stir well to combine.
- Pour onto pan and spread evenly. With slightly damp hands, press mixture down firmly.
- Bake for about 22-25 minutes or until a lightly golden colour.
- Remove from oven and allow to fully cool before slicing into 30 bars, or more if you prefer a smaller bar. Store at room temperature for 2 days or individually wrap and freeze.
Variations: Play around with this recipe. Sunflower and sesame seeds can be changed up with chopped peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts or other nuts, hemp hearts or pumpkin seeds. Any dried fruit can be used as long as it’s also chopped finely. For example, dried apricots, prunes, peaches or pineapple. Chocolate chips can be omitted or replaced with coconut flakes or even a few chopped mini marshmallows. Dried milk powder or other source of protein powder could be added. Try cutting back the sugar a bit and adding cinnamon, ginger or cardamom for sweetness. If you like them slightly savoury and spicy, you can even add a little curry powder and a few cayenne pepper flakes.