Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Granola Bar Challenge (recipe at the end)

Recently, Elizabeth at Yes.They're.All.Ours sweetly challenged me to makeover her recipe for Craisin Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. She wondered if they could be made any healthier, but still be as yummy. Two of my favorite things are chocolate and berries, so I immediately knew I was up for the challenge.

My first thought was that I wanted to soak the grains in order to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, making the grains more digestable and their nutrients more accessible.

My second consideration was what to do with the craisins. While I love their flavor, they always contain added refined sugar. But who wants to eat a cranberry that has not been sweetened? So, I nixed the craisins... and I thought of cherries, my very favorite fruit. And cherries go very well with chocolate... so I couldn't miss with cherries, right?

Well, I ran into a problem at the grocery store. I could only find cherries with added sugar. I know unsweetened cherries are available at Health Food Stores, but I did not have time to make that trip... plus they're pretty expensive.

So I thought I would just have to use apricots, since they are available unsweetened and taste yummy with chocolate and nuts. (In college I used to dip apricots in nutella for a "perfect" snack.) But before I left the grocery store, another idea popped into my mind. What about using a cherry "all-fruit jam"? Would that give the bars a cherry flavor without the added refined sugar? I figured it was worth a try.

On Monday I made my first batch of granola bars. I was hoping to call them Very Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars, but they were not very cherry. Even though I used the whole jar of Polaner All-Fruit Cherry jam, they still only had a hint of cherry flavor. They were good, and my children were pleased to eat them... but I thought there was room for improvement.

So, on Tuesday, I gave it another go. This time I used apricots... and we loved them. Now, if you are able to buy unsweetened, dried cherries, I still think they would be BEST. But, if you can not, the apricots were quite tasty with the chocolate and walnuts.

Here is the recipe... Elizabeth's original ingredients, then the ones I used in bold.

Chocolate Apricot Granola Bars

  • 5 cups rolled oats (no change)
  • 1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (no change)
  • 1 1/3 cup brown sugar (I used Sucanat, but you could use any natural sweetener that is not crystalized, such as Rapadura or Maple Sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (Make sure you buy non-aluminum baking powder.)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I omitted this simply for our personal taste preferences.)
  • 1 cup olive oil (I used melted coconut oil, but EVOO is fine.)
  • 2/3 cup milk (For the soaking, I used 2/3 cup of warm water plus 2 Tbsp plain yogurt; then I omitted this milk.)
  • 2 eggs (farm fresh!)
  • 1 cup grated coconut (It's pretty easy to find unsweetened, grated coconut.)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (no change)
  • 1 1/2 cup craisins (Use unsweetened cherries or apricots; unsulphered as well is best.)
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (You can purchase naturally sweetened chocolate chips... I chopped mine the second time around so that there would be more chocolate bites throughout... or you could start with the minis.)
  • I also added 1/2 tsp of salt the second time around, which really helped punch the flavor.

First, mix the oats and whole wheat flour. In a separate cup, mix 2/3 cup of warm water with 2 Tbsp of plain yogurt. Combine the grains and the liquids. I used my hands because I was better able to get the moisture more evenly distributed than with a spoon. Let the wet grains soak overnight or all day long, covered loosely.

When you are ready to make the bars, break apart the clumps of grains with your hands. Then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the eggs and oil. Stir to combine thoroughly.

Spread on a cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

These are delicious and nutritious. But remember to eat everything in moderation, even the good stuff!



busymomof10 said...

Thanks for taking up the challenge! I will have to try this new and improved version!

Michelle (She Looketh Well) said...

Sounds wonderful, we are going to make these! Thanks

Risha said...

This sounds so good! Unfortunately, I have not been able to eat granola for years because of what happens in my intestines during digestion (ie- very painful gas). However, I've never eaten granola made from soaked oats. Could the phytates be causing this problem? I might just have to give it a try sometime just to find out!

alexis said...

Those look absolutely decadent! I love the combination of cherry and chocolate, it's one of my favorites. I think I'll try to make these over the weekend.

Fruitful Vine2 said...

Quite innovative! Sounds yummy! Stopped by to say hi.

TeresaR said...

Mmm! I'll Try this one. The last batch of granolas I made wasn't very tasty, but this one sure sounds good.

noelle said...

I've been looking for something like this. I use a recipe I got from whole foods' website on occasion but I have never soaked my oats.

Michelle said...

These look yummy! I'm going to give these a try! :)

Laila said...

Looks absolutely delicious ..
Laila ..