Wednesday, February 10, 2010

John's Super Delicious & Healthy Granola Bars


Alrighty then. So I've been slowly changing my diet since the new year and I have to admit that I am feeling better and actually losing a little weight.  The problem is I love to cook and obviously eat, and it's hard to find delicious yet healthy things to snack on.  Well, I'm discovering it's not really that hard, it just takes the self discipline to stop buying all the sugary snacks at the grocery store.  I love nuts (that's what she said) especially almonds and peanuts, and I wanted to work them into some sort of granola bar.  As a long time fan of the great and knowledgeable Alton Brown, I was inspired by his weight loss, albeit a little too much weight loss if ya ask me.  He finally did an episode a couple weeks ago about how he changed his diet and it got me thinking about what I should be eating everyday.  I wanted to read more on the topic, so the other night I bought Michal Pollan's book, Omnivore's Dilemma.  I've barely scratched the surface of it, but the basic gist of it is to eat more whole foods.  Super foods, if you will.  Some of my favorite things actually are super foods: avocado, dark chocolate, almonds, salmon, spinach, tomatoes, and green tea.  Now if I can incorporate those along with all the other healthy whole foods into my diet, I'd be on my way to some great health.  And with the help of my sweetheart, Bec, I'm gonna get there!

We went to Trader Joe's the other night and I wanted to raid their dried fruit and nut aisle.  I came home with almonds, sunflower seeds, oats, dried blueberries, and dried cherries.  All the nuts were raw, nothing added, and the fruit was dried, nothing added either.  They had some other "dried" fruit there that had some oil and sugar added, but I steered clear of those.  The whole goal here was to get the most pure ingredients I can, with absolutely no preservatives or weird chemicals.  I had some walnuts and wheat germ at home, as well as the rest of the ingredients, so I was set.  I followed the recipe completely, except I added a 1/3 cup of walnuts, and I used whole almonds lightly chopped instead of Alton's recipe calling for sliced almonds.  They came out great, lots of fruit, lots of nuts, not too sweet, and they actually held together pretty nicely.   I even went so far as to calculate the nutritional facts based on the ingredient packaging.  I cut these into 18 bars, and they seem to be the perfect size for a light lunch or mid-day snack.

makes 18 bars - Nutritional info per bar (approximate):

208 Calories / 11g Fat / 31g Carbs / 4g Fiber / 5g Protein

Not too bad, and there are no weird chemicals in there, and most of that fat is the "good" fat from the almonds.  Sure, you can tweak the recipe and put whatever fruits and nuts you want in there.  You could also get crazy and add a scoop or two of your favorite protein powder to boost the protein numbers.  I'm guessing they would still come out pretty good as long as you kept the fruit and nut ratios the same.  Actually, the recipe called for 6 1/2 oz of dried fruits, but didn't have a volume measurement listing, I just used the entire bag each of the the cherries and blueberries, and they came out to just over 2 cups.  Probably a lot more than the recipe calls for, but I'm happy with how they came out.  FYI, the nutritional info is based on what I actually put in them, so it should be very close to accurate.  Now without further ado, the recipe...



Granola Bars
based on Alton Brown's recipe
Ingredients:

    * 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
    * 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
    * 1 cup chopped raw almonds
    * 1/3 cup chopped raw walnuts
    * 1/2 cup wheat germ
    * 1/2 cup honey
    * 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
    * 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
    * 2 tsp vanilla extract
    * 1/2 tsp kosher salt
    * 2 cups dried cherries and blueberries

Directions:

Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.


In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.


Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture and the liquid mixture to a large bowl, add the dried fruit, and stir to combine.


Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

 
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Download a printable recipe here!
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