Snacks aren’t really a big part of our pantry. This probably has something to do with my refusal to buy snacks made with refined sugar and corn syrup, the expense of the snacks made without refined sugar and corn syrup, and my lack of time and energy to make snacks without refined sugar and corn syrup. If my kiddos say they’re hungry in between meals, I usually point them to the bag of carrots.
Don’t get me wrong. Snacking on carrots is probably the right way to go, and no granola bar–corn syrup or no corn syrup–is really going to compare nutritionally. But there are days when the two-year-old is potty training, and the tax forms must be prepared, and the stomach flu has hit your house and you realize that a carrot is not going to satisfy your snack needs for the day. Before you reach for the potato chips, you should read on to see the other options I’ve found for you.
When I decided to start my Stash Busting Journey in the snack folder, there were many cheers in my house. And not just from the kiddos. The Sweetie Pie savors an afternoon snack just as much as the Peanut. Looking through the folder I found no fewer than 8 recipes for snack bars/balls/squares. Eight! And one of the recipes was 7 years old! Obviously, this project is long overdue. I decided to bust through all eight recipes and find out which ones were the keepers.
One of the recipes I tossed out right away, because it used ingredients that I no longer cook with. One down. That was easy.
I noticed that three of the recipes actually fit into my diet restrictions. I tackled these next and had the Sweetie Pie taste them with me. We agreed that the Chocolate-Apricot Nut Bars were the tastiest. Chocolate and I have not been getting along lately (tragic, I know), so I left off the chocolate drizzle. But I don’t really care for my chocolate mixed with fruit anyway, so that was fine with me.
Next up was a variety of dried fruit and nut/seed combinations in the form of mixes, bars, and squares. The Honey-Roasted Nuts and Fruit was definitely a hit on top of the morning oatmeal. The Granola Bar recipe didn’t hold together well enough to make bars, but it made a tasty granola when crumbled and toasted. This left us with two real contenders for the spot of Favorite Family Snack Bar. While the Fruit and Nut Breakfast Bars had their supporters (they were soft and chewy, and the orange flavor was a big hit), it was the other recipe that came out on top.
It is my pleasure to present to you the winner of the Snack Bar Stash Busting Competition, Peanut Butter Cranberry Go-Bars. They scored points with the family because of the peanut butter, and because they were soft, like a cookie. They scored points with me because they are honey-sweetened with no refined sugar, and they use ingredients I tend to have on hand. There were other recipes that were simpler to make, but these bars weren’t complicated by any means. I didn’t try it, but I’m pretty sure you could make these gluten/dairy-free fairly easily (use gluten-free oats and oat bran, almond flour, and coconut milk).
So here’s a nutritious and satisfying snack bar recipe to see you through all of your urgent snacking needs–tax season, potty-training, childhood illness, or whatever else is plaguing your household this week. (We are currently experiencing all three. I have a lot more baking to do.)
Source: Sunset, October 2008
- 1 cup regular rolled oats
- 1/3 cup oat bran
- 3 tablespoons flax seeds
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup finely chopped dried Mission figs
- 3/4 cup natural chunky peanut butter
- 1/4 cup low-fat milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup honey
- Finely shredded zest from 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Line a 9- by 13-in. pan with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang on the 9-in. sides, and coat with cooking-oil spray. In a large bowl, stir together oats, oat bran, flax seeds, flour, baking powder, salt, peanuts, cranberries, and figs until well blended.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together peanut butter, milk, egg, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice until well blended.
- Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture and beat until completely blended. Scrape dough into pan and, with wet fingers or a rubber spatula, pat to fill pan completely and evenly (dough is sticky, so you may need to wash your hands a few times). Chill dough until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300°. Invert pan onto a work surface, lift off pan, and peel off plastic. Using a bench scraper or knife, cut straight down lengthwise through middle, then crosswise to make 16 bars, each 1 1/2 in. wide. Place bars about 1 in. apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
- Bake bars until lightly browned and somewhat firm to touch, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
- Make ahead: Store airtight up to 2 weeks or freeze.