Friday, October 25, 2013

Cherry & Oat Granola Bars

Last week's post was a bit extravagant, I admit.  And while I do enjoy a treat now and then its certainly not the way my family eats on a daily basis.  We're not slathering Nutella on our toast every morning and packing ourselves full of cake and cookies as many of the posts on this site might have you believe.  So I thought I'd dial it back a bit this week and show you how we really snack around here.

That's not to say that I'm offering up health food here.  But I find it's easier to cram a bunch of good-for-you stuff into my kids' snacks if there's a least a little bit of something sweet to go along with it.  They would have it no other way.  So these granola bars have a fair bit of honey in them to sweeten the deal.  But the oats, flax, pumpkin seeds and unsweetened cherries are healthy enough to make me think they're totally healthy.

I'm not one to blindly go around following food fads.  It's just not my style.  I'm sure my blog would see a jump in readership if I could call myself paleo or grain-free or vegan.  But frankly I like love bread and can't seem to figure out how on earth to make a great baguette without wheat flour.  The folks in my home enjoy honey, butter and a good steak every now again, all of which would make my vegan friends shudder in disgust (and I have some so I know whereof I speak).  Instead I do my darndest to find the best ingredients I can, raised and grown responsibly whenever possible and simply try to create food for my family that contributes to a good old-fashioned, well balanced diet. 

If my new neighbors and country-mates are any example at all, I think I'm on the right track.  I don't think I've ever come across a cuisine that centers around meat and potatoes to the near exclusion of lean proteins, veggies and fruit as the German one does.  But here's the thing- I'd also be hard pressed to find an overweight German walking around.  So I think they may be on to something.  What I've come to see is that they eat well but they also get up and move as much as possible.  They walk, run, bike and even skate everywhere possible.  And there are very few fast food restaurants or processed foods here.  It's an eating philosophy I can get behind and what I'm hoping to emulate as I cook for my own family.  It's reasonable, easy and pretty much the way I cook anyway.

These granola bars are but one (really, really tasty) part of the strategy.

Cherry & Oat Granola Bars
Makes 12 to 16 bars depending on how you cut them.  Adapted from Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours by Kim Boyce.
For the recipe, click here.

These granola bars are an excellent grab and go go snack.  They remind me a bit of my favorite Kashi bars- dark chocolate and cherry- but in a country that doesn't believe in selling chocolate chips (this is a very sad discovery), that's not really an option for me.  If you want to throw in some dark chocolate chips go right on ahead, I'll understand and be completely jealous.  Try to find some good quality cherries for these bars, preferably unsweetened.  I've used both sweet dried cherries and sour cherries in these bars and I favor the sour cherries because they really balance the sweet honey nicely.  But either works just as well so choose your favorite.  One final tip for making these granola bars- make sure you really get your honey up to a rapid boil otherwise it will not do a good job setting up in the oven and your bars will crumble.

4 tbs butter, plus more for the pan
2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/3 cup dried unsweetened cherries
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs honey
a pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and butter a 9 x 9 inch straight sided baking pan.  Set aside.

In a pot large enough to hold and stir the two cups of oats, melt the butter over medium heat.  If you like you can take this a bit farther and cook the butter until lightly golden.  Pour in the oats and pumpkin seeds and stir for about 5 minutes until the oats have toasted and turned a couple of shades darker (using a raw oat as a comparison is useful to determine the color change as it is subtle).  Remove the pot from the heat and pour the oats and seeds into a large bowl.

Stir the flaxmeal and cherries into the oat mixture.

Using the same pot heat the honey over medium heat.  Cook the honey until it comes to a strong boil, about 5 minutes.  Let it cook for just a minute and then remove from the heat.  Stir in the salt and vanilla extract.  Pour the honey syrup over the oat mixture and stir quickly to coat.  Stir the granola mixture until every flake of oats, nuts and cherries are coated- this helps to get a good set for the bars.

Pour the granola mixture into the prepared pan.  You can lightly butter your hands and press the granola into the pan or use a silicone spatula to press it evenly and tightly into the pan.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.  The bars will be shiny and sticky and the edges will be nicely golden.  Remove the bars from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan.  Cut into 12 or 16 bars and let cool completely.

The bars will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container (I recommend wrapping them individually so that they don't stick to each other).

No comments:

Post a Comment