Sunday, May 10, 2009

Healthy Granola-ish Bars

I have an addiction. It's a problem, really, and one that I have trouble overcoming. I am in love with granola bars. Well, any kind of breakfast-y bar, really. Cereal bars. Crunchy, nutty bars. Sweet, fruity bars. Chocolatey bars. I am not really discriminating when it comes to my bars. I buy them by the truckload, it seems. Seriously, at one point we must have had about 20 boxes of bars in our pantry, all different brands and varieties. Like I told you, it's a problem. I just can't seem to help myself. When I see them in the grocery store, I have to stop and stare at all the different kinds. Normally, at least one or more are on sale. Why, oh why, do they always have to be on sale? That's only going to make me justify buying them!

But I think I may have come up with a solution. You see, last winter I decided to try my hand at making my own granola bars. I pored over recipes on my favorite recipe website, Recipezaar, until I had narrowed down my search to oh, maybe 20 different recipes. The first type I tried turned out really well. They were peanut buttery ones, and all the cooking was done on the stove, no baking required. They were a little bit of work, though, because you had to combine all the ingredients before the cooked, liquidy ingredients hardened on you, and then press it all into a pan to set up. I loved that recipe, but now that I have the two kids and a whole lot less free time on my hands, I have to find something that will be much easier to throw together.

Then I found happiness. I found a recipe for Healthy Chocolate Nut Squares, also on Recipezaar. I retooled the recipe just a tad and gave it a try. They are delicious. They're much better homemade than out of a box. They're more of a treat this way; they're more like a cake-like oatmeal cookie or something. Plus, they're loaded with good, wholesome ingredients, and no preservatives! I wrap them each in plastic wrap, throw them in the freezer, and then I take one out each morning so it'll thaw for later on. They stay fresh, and each batch lasts nearly two weeks. So I've found a way to save money, provided I can resist the lure of the grocery store bars from now on! Here's the recipe, with my modifications.

Healthy Chocolate Nut Squares
adapted from Recipezaar
yields 12 bars

1 cup Grape Nuts cereal
3/4 cup quick oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tablespoons ground flax seed (I used this once, and then whole flax seeds the second time. Both turned out fine.)
1 1/2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds (the original recipe calls for 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, but I thought the almonds worked well)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (butterscotch, white chocolate, or cinnamon chips would be great, too)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 oz. nonfat yogurt (I used plain, but flavored could be used as well)
1 large egg
1 egg white
1/2 cup applesauce (I used a sweetened kind)
1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 2/3 cup, but 1/2 was plenty for me)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9x13 baking dish by coating it with cooking spray, or by lining it with aluminum foil that has been sprayed.

Combine all ingredients, from Grape Nuts down through cinnamon, in a large mixing bowl. Once combined, add in the remaining six ingredients. Stir well.

Spread mixture evenly into prepared dish, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then cut into squares. (I cut evenly into 12 rectangles; they are roughly the size and shape of a - you guessed it - store bought granola bar!)

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