Sunday, May 1, 2011

Homemade snack bars

What did we do before the invention of individually packaged snack or granola bars? They've become a great, convenient staple for those of us who need something to toss in our purses, backpacks, or desk drawers.

But finding a good grab-and-go snack with few, quality ingredients can be tough. Read the list of ingredients on most packages of granola bars, and you have to wonder how they get all the type to fit on the small wrapper.

Because of that, I love Larabars. True, their calorie tally is higher than many other snack bars, but take a look at the ingredients and you'll understand why: the list includes as few as two and no more than nine items. And they're all common, household ingredients that you can usually find in your own pantry.

Generally, my only obstacle to not having more of them around is that they're a little on the pricier side. They're generally sold individually, so I find it to be a snack I savor and consider a treat.

But why not try making your own?

In the class from Fermenti Artisan that I took in February -- the class about soaking and sprouting your foods before cooking and eating them -- one of the recipes we made in class was a model of a homemade Larabar. Your ingredients are really up to you! These guys had two general guidelines for when you develop your own mix: use stickier kinds of dried fruits for the best results (since they act as the glue that holds everything together), and use about twice the quantity of sticky fruit to dry ingredients.

The rest is up to you!

I made my own this weekend for the first time, modeled after Larabar's "Cinnamon Roll" flavor because I had everything on hand. My approximate quantities were:

1 lb sticky fruit (dates and raisins, for me)
1/2 lb nuts (walnuts, almonds and raw cashews)
1/2 t cinnamon

Beyond that, I had slightly more weight in dates than raisins, and my mix of nuts was about 2 parts walnuts, 1 part almonds, and 1 part raw cashews. How do you do it? Here are the Fermenti Artisan guys' directions, with my notes:

1. Chop by hand, or pulse in a food processor (always my preference), all the nuts until they're in small, coarse pieces. Dump into a large mixing bowl.
2. Puree in the food processor, or chop by hand and mix thoroughly, your dried fruits. Dump them into the bowl with the nuts.
3. Blend in your spices, using a spoon or your hands to thoroughly mash everything together. My hands were definitely the easier method here.
4. Grease a glass baking dish (mine was 8x8" square) with a small amount of coconut oil to prevent the mixture from sticking. I used wax paper instead, because it makes for easier cleanup and doesn't add any additional oil to the recipe.
5. Press the fruit and nut mixture firmly into the dish, smoothing out to the edges.
6. Allow to sit for at least 2 hours before cutting into bars, and you can put it into the fridge for a short time to help it set.
7. Cut into bars and wrap into individually packaged snack bars. Store them at room temperature, or in the fridge in the warmer months. They'll keep for a month or so, after which you just risk them drying out. Enjoy! The potential combinations of flavors are endless.

I calculated out the nutritional info for my recipe, to see about how many bars I should (and could reasonably) cut my recipe into. Twelve became my lucky number.

Nutritional info per bar: 12 bars in the above recipe
235 calories
11g fat
3.8 g fiber
25 g sugar
4g protein

I can't wait to try making more! Have you ever tried making your own snack bars?

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