Back to Basics: Homemade Granola Bar Recipe
Store bought granola bars may seem like a healthy snack, but after taking a closer look at the ingredients list, you realize how awful these things actually are. They are no better than any other processed, prepackaged snack. Store bought granola bars are filled with sugar, preservatives, MSG (often disguised as “natural and artificial flavors”), and rancid vegetable oils (canola and soy). Aside from that, these store bought snacks are not properly prepared. As I described in my previous post, it is extremely important to properly soak grains and seeds (including the oats, Grape Nuts cereal and seeds used in this recipe). The grains used in store bought granola bars are not soaked, and therefore, are filled with phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. In order for your body to properly digest and absorb the vitamins and nutrients offered in these potentially nutritious snacks, the grains and seeds must be properly soaked, rinsed, and dried before use. In order to get the best out of what should be a healthy granola bar, go Back to Basics and make these bars yourself so you know exactly what is in them and to ensure they are prepared for maximum digestibility.
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (soaked, rinsed, and dried** -see below)
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (soaked, rinsed, and dried**)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (soaked, rinsed, and dried**)
- 1/2 cup rice puffed cereal (I used Nature’s Path Organic Koala Crisps - chocolate flavored rice puffs, from Whole Foods)
- 1/2 cup Grape Nuts cereal (soaked, rinsed, and dried**)
- 1 cup raisins (or dried fruit of choice: blueberries, cranberries, cherries)
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar or cane sugar
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1. Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.
2. Mix oats, Grape Nuts, puffed rice, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit in a large bowl.
3. Combine peanut butter, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat, stir frequently until the mixture slightly bubbles, this will take just a few minutes.
4. While the mixture is still warm, quickly pour the sticky mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until all of the dry ingredients are covered (this may take a little while, just keep mixing and folding over ingredients).
5. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan. Using a large spoon and/or your hands, press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer (wait until the mixture cools slightly if necessary). Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes; cut into bars. It may be easier to cut if you wait a little while after you remove them from the refrigerator. After cutting, keep individual bars refrigerated.
** Two days before I planned on making my granola bars I began to soak my oats, Grape Nuts (wheat), and seeds. I did this around 7pm that night. I soaked the oats and wheat as follows: 3 cups of each (in separate bowls) in 3 cups of warm water, with two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar per cup of water. That’s 6 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for each grain to soak in (oats and wheat separately). *Note: you do not need to use raw apple cider vinegar, that is just what I use because to me, it’s better than regular apple cider vinegar.*
In 2 additional bowls, I added about 2 cups of pumpkin seeds (in one bowl), and 2 cups of sunflower seeds (in another bowl) - I added 3 cups of water to each of these, plus two teaspoons of sea salt to each. Stir salt, water, and seeds. Cover all of the soaking bowls with lid or plastic wrap. I let these soak overnight. Then, in the morning around 7am, I began the next part of the process. Starting with the seeds (since they need less soaking time), I strained all of the water out and rinsed both batches of seeds thoroughly. Then, I used three cookie sheets to spread out seeds evenly to dry in the oven. (It’s probably easier to use a dehydrator for this if you have one, but I do not). After patting the seeds dry with paper towels, it’s important to put the seeds in the oven at the lowest temperature you can (mine was at 170 degrees, but 150 degrees would be ideal). This will take hours to dry out the seeds completely (taste them to feel the insides — they shouldn’t be mushy on the inside), and every so often you should make sure you are checking on the seeds and taking them out, mixing them up, and rotating them in the oven.
Meanwhile, I emptied the water and rinsed the oats and wheat, but refilled the bowls with those grains and added fresh water and fresh apple cider vinegar. I knew that the seeds would pretty much take all day to dry in the oven, so I wanted the oats and wheat to be able to soak until the oven was freed up from the seeds. After the seeds were dried out completely, I then drained and rinsed the oats and wheat thoroughly. The oats and wheat take a little longer to completely rinse. After rinsing, I squeezed them (in large handfuls) to allow excess water to drain out, and then laid them out on the three cookie sheets. Then, I dried them in the oven the same way I dried the nuts (at 170 degrees, mixing and rotating the oats and wheat every so often). Drying the oats and wheat takes less time than the seeds, but require more mixing and rotating. The oats ended up being stuck together when they dried out, so I threw them into a blender to pulse a few times in order to break them up a bit.
Since I did my soaking in a larger batch than I needed to use for this recipe, these ingredients will be prepared and ready to use for future batches of granola whenever I need them. Of course, you do not have to soak and dry all of the ingredients at once (as I did), you can soak and dry whenever you want and spread it out to different days, and make your granola bars whenever you have all of the ingredients ready.
“The Vitamin Water Deception - exposes truth behind this non-healthy beverage”
Check out this short (5 minute) video, especially if you’re a consumer of Vitamin Water.
Today I literally spent HOURS at Reading Terminal Market — there’s so much fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, baked goods, and skin care products. And the best part? It’s all LOCAL.
On my quest to be more healthy, I’ve been looking into quite a few different products/foods sold at local farmers markets. And it’s all SO great. I wish I had tons o’ money and could spend freely while shopping there. But for now, I went with just a few things: two loafs of bread (one as sliced bread, one as more of a dessert), organic lettuce, spinach, and a cucumber.
If you couldn’t tell already (by the picture posted above), I’m the most EXCITED about the homemade breads that I just bought. AH-MAZ-ING. And healthier, nonetheless. Fresh homemade bread from a local market is much more nutritious and more properly prepared than store bought bread that’s been sitting on the shelves for however long, had to travel quite a distance to get there, and is processed in a huge facility that uses lots of preservatives to ensure that the bread doesn’t rot before it actually gets to you.
Let’s take a look at loaf #1 (organic whole wheat), which will be used for toast and sandwiches. This bread was baked by Brian Hernon at Slow Rise Bakery.
Slow Rise Bakery has various homemade breads that are baked fresh, without the use of preservatives, and genetically modified ingredients (GMO’s). Most are even made without oils! :D Take a look at the ingredients: Organic whole wheat flour, water, honey, kosher salt, and yeast. AND THAT’S IT! Simple, minimal ingredients to do the job of the paragraph of ingredients often listed on store bought bread. Even with minimal ingredients, this bread is much more dense than commercially produced breads (which we all know to be light and fluffy). “Light and fluffy” isn’t necessarily a good thing when it comes to breads, since REAL (traditional/homemade) breads are mostly dense and compact when made properly (keeping in mind that the denseness has nothing to do with softness….two completely different things here).
This bread was purchased at Fair Food Farmstand ($5).
On to loaf #2 (homemade gourmet raisin bread). Wow. Speaking of dense bread…this bread is DENSE. The weight of this loaf is about as heavy as a pie. No kidding. And it’s packed with delicious raisins and cinnamon. If you like store bought raisin bread, you’re absolutely missing out. If you could just smell this bread, your mouth would be watering. This, and other amazing Amish baked goods, can be purchased at Beiler’s Bakery (an Amish bakery at Reading Terminal Market) for just $4.75!
For just a little more $$ than you’d spend at the grocery store, these freshly baked, homemade breads are worth it.
I’m sad that Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (TV show on ABC) is over, but what Jamie did is just the start of the food revolution throughout America… (I hope, and so far it seems!)
Jamie Oliver is a British Chef who strives to eliminate the processed, unhealthy foods we eat on a daily basis. He started by campaigning for British school children to have healthier foods available to them while at school. After being successful with the British school meals, Jamie moved onto the everyday people in England. Jamie Oliver had a television show in England called “Jamie’s Ministry of Food” which allowed him to inspire people to cook fresh, healthy foods for daily meals.
In 2009, Jamie came to the U.S. and introduced a television show called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” with the goal to change the way American’s eat. Jamie strives to change the eating habits of every day people. Unhealthy fast food and processed slop for school lunches are two of the things Jamie is passionately trying to eliminate from the lives of Americans. Having fresh, nutritious lunches in our schools is extremely important. As Jamie says, your child is in school from (approx) 4 - 18 years old. That’s a lot of years in the beginning stages of their lives to continuously eat pre-packaged, processed food filled with tons of sugar, high sodium, and the very least amount of nutrients.
Jamie continuously proves his point using creative tactics to catch people’s attention and leave an impression. In an episode of Season 2 of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Jamie tries to convince a single father of two that his family’s daily fast food habits are unhealthy and not cost effective. To do this, Jamie fills the family’s living room with fast food — as much fast food as they eat in one year. The father is disgusted by what he’s been feeding his kids, and he admits to wanting change, but claims that fast food is convenient, and that he simply can’t cook. Jamie fixed that. He showed the kid’s father how easy it is to cook a fresh, healthy meal in 30 minutes. He did this by first teaching the kids how to cook a meal for their father, while their father went out to grab fast food for the family of three. The purpose of this was to compare how long it took to prepare a fresh meal vs. how long it takes to grab fast food. Jamie also did a price comparison, per person, between both meals. The results? It took the father longer to go get fast food and bring it home, while spending more money per person. The kid’s cooked a healthy meal at home, using fresh ingredients, and it was ready to eat before their father returned. This also proved that cooking fresh at home was more cost effective than eating fast food meals.
Jamie’s right. It’s not hard to cook in order to stay away from unhealthy foods. Even if you think you don’t know how — learn! You’ll be surprised how easy it is to put something healthy together and create a delicious meal. There are tons of recipes available on the internet. If you can read and follow directions, you can cook. And no excuses if you’re more of a visual person, there’s YouTube for that. The step-by-step “how to” videos couldn’t make it any easier.
Fresh food is always the way to go. Ya know, you are what you eat. This mindset should extend into school lunches as well. Check out Jamie’s website here and make sure to sign the petition to support Jamie’s Food Revolution and remove unhealthy lunches from schools around America:
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution - U.S. Foundation
Join the 706,168 people who already have.
You will also find some great links to the facts about school lunches, films and books to become better informed about the food you eat, news updates, other school food campaigns going on right now, food blogs, and Jamie’s own recipes.