I’ve been exercising a lot lately, which partially accounts for lack of blogs I suppose. At least three days a week I’m up at 6:15 and at the gym for 7 a.m. “bootcamp.” It kicks my butt, which is pretty much what I need.
They say that you shouldn’t work out on an empty stomach, and in my case I’ve learned from experience that I have to have some sugar in me beforehand. Otherwise, dizziness and fainting ensue, and I really don’t enjoy being that girl. So I try to grab something on the way out, usually a bar of some sort (Luna, Lara, whatever…) I also try and grab something afterwards and on occasion I need something to tide me over between meals…. the result is that I can end up spending $10-$15 a week on “bars.”
So I was kind of excited when Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for thick, chewy granola bars that she’d adapted from the King Arthur’s Flour site. I tried them the way they were, and they were fantastic, but not entirely to my liking. So I tinkered with the recipe, cut out the corn syrup, switched to brown sugar and reduced the butter. I also added more peanut butter and experimented with adding mashed bananas… and after much trial and error I think I’ve got it. These are reasonably healthy: they’ve got a dose of sugar for quick energy at the beginning of your workout, but lots of nuts (ie protein) to sustain you through a 90 minute bike ride or yoga class or whatever. I wouldn’t call them low-fat, but they’re full of good fats and whole grains and since you make them yourself, you know exactly what’s in there.
These are a cinch to make: about 10 minutes of mixing ingredients, 40 minutes of baking and then a few hours of letting them sit on the counter and cool. Chicky and I call them birdseed bars cause with all the nuts and seeds that’s kind of what they look like. But they taste much better- I think. I’ve never actually eaten birdseed. Anyway…
1 2/3 cups quick oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cups dried nuts/fruit (I always use three cups and enjoy a combination of pepitas, sliced almonds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and wheat bran. Feel free to use whatever you like or have in your cabinet)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (put in the microwave for 15 seconds to soften it up)
4 Tb melted butter (you can also substitute a mashed banana here, or halve the water and the butter and use a banana)
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup or agave nectar
4 Tb water
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and stir well. Add the wet ingredients and mix well. The mixture should be the consistency of mud. Spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray and line with a sheet of parchment paper that comes up two opposing sides of the pan. Pour in your bar mixture and press firmly and evenly into place with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until the edges are just golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. You can let them cool in the pan or pull up the edges of the parchment to remove the whole panful of bars, which will cool them faster. Once they are completely cool, use a serrated knife to cut bars of your desired size. (Note: The bars will crumble if you try to cut them before they’re completely cool. If you have issues, try putting the pan in the fridge for a half hour or so.)
Store in an airtight container, or in the fridge.