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Homemade Granola Bars

February 24, 2011

Last night we adapted the “Power Bars” recipe in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking. The recipe in the book is nearly identical to the recipe on her blog for Big Sur Power Bars. It looks like someone has reposted the entire recipe from the Super Natural Cooking here.

I would call these granola bars, not power bars. “Power Bar” is a registered trademark for a pretty junky food. I do understand, though, that “power bar” is almost a generic term like “kleenex.”  But besides this, the ingredients in these bars are quite similar to granola. Sure, they are powerful, but so is granola.

I like these bars an awful lot more than any bar on the market, including Clif Bars. They remind me most of General Mills Nature Valley Chewy Trail Mix bars in taste and consistency – only much, much better. And, unlike the Nature Valley bars, they don’t have any high-maltose corn syrup.

This recipe is a great base to build upon. Heidi has a good recommendation for sweeteners to use as a binding agent. I’ve replaced her suggested cane sugar with maple syrup. This results in:

  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The dry mix that we poured this into was a little different from Heidi’s. I was worried that we were going too crazy here, but the result was amazing. I especially liked the more savory things we added, like sunflower seeds. These bars don’t have to be all sweet, and even a hint of something less sweet helps them taste more interesting. Our final mix included (with comparison to Heidi’s original in parentheses):

  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats (same)
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal (same, would use less)
  • 1/2 cup oat bran (same)
  • 1 1/2 cup toasted chopped almonds (different)
  • 3 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger (same)
  • 1 cup chopped dried cherries (different)
  • 2-3 tbsp dried coconut flakes (different, highly recommended)
  • 2-3 tbsp sunflower seeds (different, highly recommended)
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds (different)
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds (different)
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds (different)

This dry mix was good even on its own, though the first three ingredients definitely kept it too dry to eat much of.

This close-up of the bars cooling in their pan gives you the best view of the ingredients:

Other ingredients I’d consider trying in the future include:

  • Dried figs or dried dates, maybe in lieu of dried cranberries
  • Peanuts instead of almonds
  • Lemon or orange zest in the dry mix, maybe with some lemon or orange juice in the liquid binding mix
  • Other interesting seeds

I’m also curious about how these could be made as raw food. Heating the binding agent didn’t seem like an essential step; my stuff didn’t thicken much, but it did help the cane sugar and vanilla mix into the rice syrup properly. I’m always looking for a way to cut down on dishes, so I might try to avoid doing this. Some other recipes that use honey and agave nectar as a raw binding agent – maybe also something to look into.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Wholeearthalum68 permalink
    February 24, 2011 3:31 pm

    This is a good way to be sure of what you are eating! Where do you buy agave nectar? Would this be useful to replace corn syrup in pecan pie?

  2. February 24, 2011 4:34 pm

    These look super tasty!

  3. February 24, 2011 5:05 pm

    Plenty of agave nectar to be had at Whole Foods!

  4. Ken Schwaber permalink
    February 25, 2011 6:50 pm

    And are they good!

  5. February 25, 2011 7:25 pm

    They are really tasty. One quick recommendation: By the second or third day they might be a little tough. 7 seconds each in the microwave is all it takes to get them gooey again.

  6. March 4, 2011 2:16 am

    Aha, Mark Bittman has a recipe for no-bake granola bars: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/dining/22mini.html?ref=theminimalist. Will have to try this!

    • March 4, 2011 2:17 am

      But they involve heating the binding agent, too! “No-bake” might be a stretch. I guess it’s technically no-bake but not no-cook.

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