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.