Saturday, May 4, 2013

Peanut Butter and Honey Granola Bars

Happy Saturday everyone! This morning was a huge success for me. I had been searching and searching the web for a quick and easy recipe for homemade granola bars that didn't use any ingredients that were too extravagant, that would be shelf stable, and looked/sounded yummy. I found what I was looking for yesterday! A special thanks goes out to Jaclyn over at Cooking Classy for her recipe that she calls Microwave Peanut Butter Granola Bars.

I regret to inform everyone that I didn't take pictures during the process of putting these together... I'm still getting new to the idea of blogging, and I told hubs afterwards, 'dang, I should have taken pictures!'.  I'll try to do better next time so you can see my step-by-step process of my cooking/crafting/diy adventures. But for now, the picture of my finished product will have to suffice:

What's left after the taste test

Yes, I know, this doesn't look like a full pan's worth. It's not. I was so excited to try them, I cut them up and devoured one right away. So did the hubs. We were so pleased with the outcome, we took several bars next door to my mom's house where our two boys had stayed the night- everyone tried one except for the pickiest of the picky eaters- my ten year old. Big brother couldn't believe they were homemade, and everyone loved them and asked me to make them again... and often!

The original recipe didn't call for the chocolate chips- that was my own idea, but I can't try to claim I'm that genius- I saw plenty of other recipes that call for chocolate or other flavored chips, dried fruit, or peanut butter drizzled over the top. I just thought that a few chips would add a little extra 'sweet' to these bars that already looked delicious. You can leave them plain, add chips, add dried fruit, add nuts, add whatever suits your fancy! I had thought about adding some sunflower seed nuts to this first batch, but decided to keep the creativity to a minimum for my first go-round. Always a good idea with new recipes, in my opinion. That way, if you decide you don't like the recipe, you haven't wasted a perfectly good extra ingredient. Of course, nothing would have been wasted had I added anything else to these- I could tell before I tasted them that I'd love them.

One great thing about granola bars is the health benefit- you get the fiber you need to start your day, and the peanut butter gives it that protein so you don't have a sugar-crash mid-morning. They're also super easy when you're in a rush in the morning and don't have time to sit down to eat a bowl of oatmeal or the hearty bacon and eggs meal that everyone loves so much but never has time for. And of course, the cost factor is big in my book- everyone can stand to save some money here and there, regardless of your financial situation, but for those of us whose finances are a bit tighter, this is one of those small miracles that can make a big difference! Several bucks to grab a breakfast on the go at the local Quik Trip wasn't a big deal a year or two ago, but these days, I really notice how that $3 here, $4 there really add up. These wonderful bars are a great alternative.

The two ingredients that give the bars their fiberific bulk are quick oats and puffed rice cereal. Most people will go for the Quaker oats, but I can assure you, you can't tell a difference between name brand and store brand with this recipe. I used the quick oats I bought at Aldi. And for the puffed rice, Jaclyn's recipe (and many other recipes) call for Rice Krispies cereal... I was headed to WalMart this morning with the plan of purchasing Malt O Meal's version... but when I arrived at the cereal aisle, I was pleasantly surprised to see this:

Right next to the Malt O Meal brand cereals, hiding there on the top shelf, was exactly what I needed. Alf's Natural Nutrition Puffed Brown Rice Cereal. Nuthin' but whole brown rice in this bag! No extra ingredients I couldn't pronounce, no preservatives, no sugar, nothing to make my bars less nutritious. Just brown rice It's only a six ounce bag, but six ounces of puffed rice can go a long way, people. The picture is the bag AFTER I used almost two cups in this recipe! And to top it all off, drum roll please.... it was $1! One dollar even, versus the cost of the bag of Malt O Meal, which was over $4... granted, it was a bigger bag, but I only needed enough for my breakfast bars, and there was no one in the family eats this type of cereal as plain cereal, so the Malt O Meal bag would have been $4+ of  overkill. I had to explain this to the hubs, too, as I've gotten him accustomed to looking at the cost broken down to the serving size or ounce to find the best deal.

So that's the bulk of the bars... what's the glue? Peanut butter, honey, and a little bit of brown sugar. There's also an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract to add a little more flavor, although I couldn't really taste the vanilla over the peanut butter and honey. That's it. That's all there is to these bars! Mix up your cereals in a mixing bowl- I tossed mine by hand rather than dirty up a spoon for dry ingredients- mix the peanut butter, honey, brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl, nuke for a minute, stir, nuke for another minute, add the vanilla and stir again. Pour the mixture over the dried cereal and stir until the peanut butter mixture has coated all of the cereal, then press into an 8x8 pan lined with aluminum foil.

Jaclyn mentions to put the pan in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. I simply stuck the pan in the freezer while I cleaned up the kitchen (the dishes from this recipe, plus a few leftover dirty dishes from other people). By the time the dishwasher was full and counters were wiped down, the hubs came in to ask how long they had to cook. I responded by pulling the pan out of the freezer, pulling the foil out of the pan, and whipping out the knife to dig in. Needless to say, he was excited! I didn't keep track of the time, but it didn't take fifteen minutes for me to clean, and they were set up just fine for cutting and eating devouring.

Since I sat down to write this blog, the hubster has reminded me twice to make more of these yummy bars so he can take some to work with him on Monday... I guess he isn't planning on these lasting until then! Be sure to use your imagination... hubs wants some with nutella in place of the peanut butter, some with a variety of dried fruits, and some with the chocolate but with pretzel pieces added into the mix... oh, and I can't forget the almond bark drizzled over the top!

For the full recipe, hop on over to Jaclyn's post and be sure to give credit where credit is due! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, and don't forget to live better today than you did yesterday!!

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