With the end of the school year near and a long summer break looming on the horizon, I've been trying to gather recipes for snacks that are portable, easy to make in bulk, and will keep my 3 hungry little cavemen satisfied.
Granola bars (especially the kind studded with chocolate) were always big winners in our house, and I've seen several recipes floating around the paleo blogosphere. I opened up the tabs and let the boys peruse the blog posts for the one they liked the best (all were pretty similar, but this was about letting them have a say). Their choice was this one over at Joyful Abode- with the addition of chocolate chips, of course.
I rummaged through the pantry for ingredients- dried fruits, nuts, and seeds- and came up with hazelnuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, dried blueberries, dates, and flax seeds. I had been hoping for some dried apples or apricots or raisins, but it looks like we're out. I guess it's time to make some more!
For now, though, I took the goodies I'd rustled up and did a rough chop of some of the ingredients with the food processor and set that aside, then took the remainder of the ingredients and did a then a finer chop.
In hindsight, I really should have continued processing this second batch even finer- the larger chunks allowed the granola bars to break apart more easily.
Oops. Mental note made for the next time!
Thankfully, I had the foresight not to toss the chocolate into the bowl with everything else yet….I gave the dark chocolate chips a good rough chop so that I had irregular pieces, and set them aside.
After mixing some coconut into the nuts, fruits, and seeds, I pulled out the jar of local raw honey I found at a farmer's market.
Let me tell you, this stuff is AWESOME. It's sweeter, thicker, and tastier than any other honey I've tried.
The honey went into a small sauce pan with some coconut oil and a pinch of salt, and a couple good dashes of cinnamon and was cooked over medium heat until the whole thing bubbled. I removed it from the heat, added a bit more cinnamon (the recipe said so!) and a splash of vanilla, and then poured it over the nut/seed/fruit mixture and stirred well to coat everything.
And then burned my tongue licking the super-hot honey and coconut oil mixture from the spoon.
One of these days, I'll learn.
After a good stir while nursing my burnt tongue with an icecube, I added the chocolate chips. The heated honey and coconut oil had cooled enough with the first mixing that that I didn't melt my chocolate pieces into non-existence. Phew!
The whole kit and caboodle was poured into a parchment paper-lined 9×13 pan.
I smoothed it out, then laid another piece of parchment over the top and began pressing on the surface.
Let me tell you, you have to really work your fingertips along the edges, and then press down along every inch of the bars. The idea, of course, is to compress all the ingredients into a solid bar that will hold it's shape when it's cool and cut into bars, and this requires a lot more effort than I realized at first.
I found out after a cooling/hardening time that I hadn't applied nearly enough pressure to the granola bars, and they crumbled at the first touch of the knife.
This is where I also found out that it's important to pay attention to the measurements. I tend to eyeball things, and the first attempt had too much of the nut/seed/fruit/coconut mixture and not enough honey and coconut oil.
Oops #2. If my tongue hadn't still been sore enough to give me an awkward lisp, I would have been muttering some choice phrases sure to expand the kids' vocabulary.
I did some quick measuring and math to figure out how much additional honey and coconut oil I'd need to get these babies to stick together (I'd shorted it by almost half!) and repeated the bubbling/pouring/mixing/pressing process.
When I felt that the bars were sufficiently pressed, they went into the freezer for a half hour to firm up.
The end result?
Amazing granola bars that the cavekids loved. I found them to be a bit too sweet (I'm willing to bet my math was off!!), but Chris and the kids all gave them 2 thumbs up.
Because some of my ingredients were not ground fine enough, the granola bars tend to crumble at room temperature, so we just keep this batch in the fridge. Cameron discovered he liked his room temperature in a bowl with some almond milk splashed over it so that he could chop it up and eat it as a cereal!
from 'Grain-Free Granola Bars' recipe at Joyful Abode
2.5 cups assorted nuts and seeds
1 cup dried fruit
2 cups shredded coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
splash of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous sprinkle of cinnamon
some more cinnamon
Roughly chop 1 cup of the nuts and seeds. Place in a bowl.
Use your food processor to pulse the other 1.5 cups of nuts and seeds into a finer “chop.” Add to the bowl.
Add your fruit.
Stir in the dried coconut.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine oil, honey, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Cook until the mixture bubbles, then pour over the fruit/nut mixture.
Stir to combine completely.
Press your mixture into a parchment-lined pan of some sort. Press HARD.
Cool 2-3 hours, then remove from the pan and cut into bars.