Sunday, June 13, 2010

My Everyday Granola Bars

Well, I have finally found it. Yes, here it is. It's the granola bar recipe that could easily be the only granola bar recipe I'll ever use again. Now, this is a very bold statement, coming from me. I love to try out different variations of just about everything, from chocolate chip cookies, to brownies, to frosting. It's hard for me to imagine settling on just one version of any of those. However, this granola bar recipe has made me a believer. Now, I know I can settle for just one of something, because I am in love with these bars. I don't see a reason to look any further!

I found this recipe on Recipezaar, as is the case with so many fantastic recipes I've found over the last few years. I have over 40 different granola bar recipes saved in my own breakfast bar file on that site, and I chose this one because it had dark chocolate in the title. What can I say? If it has chocolate, I'm there! Also, there was a minimal amount of fat, and the fat that is present is the good kind; healthy fats from the peanut butter and nuts, plus the dark chocolate (which of course, is the "healthier" chocolate!).

Oops, sorry for that shot of hubby's foot! This was one of the best shots of the bars, and I figured nobody would mind that the foot ended up in there too. Anyway, one of the greatest things about this recipe is how easily it all comes together. There is a long ingredient list, but everything is basically mixed up in a huge bowl, pressed into a 9x13 pan, and baked for just 20 minutes. Then, voila! You have an easy, on-the-go snack or meal bar that tastes great and actually fills you up! For my money, that can't be beat. So often, granola bar recipes taste good but leave you feeling hungry afterward. With these, I actually do feel as though I have eaten a meal, and that is just what I need. I eat these for lunch almost every day!

It's great how forgiving the recipe is, too. You can substitute ingredients in the recipe and the bars will still turn out wonderfully. You can use any type of nut; you can use any flavor chips in place of dark chocolate. You can use regular or reduced fat peanut butter. You can use any dried fruit in place of dried cranberries. The variations go on and on!

I've made these probably 5 or 6 times now in the last few months. I bake them up, cut them into 12 bars, wrap each in plastic wrap, and freeze them in a Ziploc bag. It's so easy to just grab one an hour or so before I want to eat it; it's thawed by the time I'm ready for it. Then you don't have to worry about them going bad, etc. They're always just as good as fresh! If you're looking for a homemade granola or breakfast bar recipe, I highly, highly recommend these! Although, you'll have to forgive me if you ever catch me posting yet another granola bar recipe someday. Even though this bar is IT, that doesn't mean I won't ever try another one again! Sometimes I'm funny like that.

The original recipe for Dark Chocolate Granola Bars can be found here.
Below is my favorite variation. Feel free to use whatever you want, though!

Dark Chocolate Granola Bars
adapted from Recipezaar
makes 12 bars

1/4 cup sugar (or 2 Tbsp. Splenda Sugar Blend, which I currently use)
1/4 cup maple syrup (I have been using light corn syrup, just to use it up)
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. any kind peanut butter
1 egg white
1 Tbsp. fat-free evaporated milk (regular 2% milk is fine)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a very large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients. Mix well. Next, combine the following 4 ingredients (flour through allspice) in a separate bowl. Add this to the first 7 ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well to coat everything with the wet ingredients.
2. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If using foil, spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Press the granola mixture into the pan, being careful to smooth out the top so that the granola is evenly placed. It is easier if you use the extra pieces of parchment or foil that hang over the edges to help press everything down. Simply fold the excess over the top of the mixture, press down firmly to spread it all out, then peel the parchment/foil back from the mixture. The mixture should now be even.
3. Bake for 18-20 minutes (20 is my magic number for this), then remove from oven and score surface immediately with shallow cuts. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, then cut and separate into bars.

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