Friday, November 4, 2011

Roasted Fruit and Nut Bars

Having meals together as a family is really important to us, and one of the things we like to do is go around the table and each person comes up with a question they want to ask everybody...kind of round robin style. One of the questions my daughter asked the other night was "What is everybody's favorite snack?"  I had to really think about this one, because there are SO many options; rice cakes with sunflower seed butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, dark chocolate trail mix, oatmeal and apple muffins, yogurt with granola, sliced veggies with hummus...just to name a few. :-) 

I finally decided on homemade "granola/energy" type bars. The kids love them, the husband loves them, and I love them...and really how can you not? They are compact, easy to take with, don't have a ton of calories (depending on how big you cut each bar), and have lot's of fiber and protein. 

Here's another family favorite. Roasted Fruit and Nut Bars. So delicious, and they keep for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container at room temperature. The only kind of "weird" ingredient is brown rice syrup. See the bottom of this post for more info. about it and where you can shop for it.

**This recipe is from a blog called Enlightened Cooking . Check out the original recipe here.

Recipe for the Bars
Serves: 8 Prep: 5 minutes  Cooking Time: 18 minutes Waiting to Cool Time: 1 hour
  1 cup toasted or raw nuts, coarsely chopped (I used roasted almonds, but see Change it Up for other options. Also to roast the nuts, check out this  page.)
1/2 cup seeds  (I used half toasted pepitas, half sesame, but see Change it up for other options. Don't care for seeds in your bars? See the variation at the bottom of the post.)
1/3 cup dried fruit  (I used dried cranberries, but see Change it up for other options)
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown rice syrup or barley malt syrup or honey (I used brown rice syrup; not sure if the honey would be sticky enough but you can try it.)

1. Preheat oven to 325*F. Get out your foil and line a 8" square pan with it. Lightly spray the foil with cooking spray. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the nuts, seeds and dried fruit. 
 3. Add salt and syrup. Stir until well coated. 
4. Pour mixture into prepared, foil-lined pan. Tear off a piece of foil and spray with cooking spray. Use that to press out the mixture evenly in the pan to flatten it. 
 5. Bake for 18 minutes, then place on a cooling rack and let cool for 15-20 minutes, until partially set. Don't let cool completely. 
6. Lift the sides of the foil from the pan and carefully place on a cutting board. Cut into 8 bars. They are super sticky, so don't lift the bars from the pan just yet. 
 7. Wait another 30 minutes to 1 hour until the bars have completely cooled. Remove each bar from foil. Wrap individually in parchment or wax paper. Keep in air-tight container for up to 2 weeks. 

Don't care for seeds in your bars? No problem! Try a different variation:
 Follow the above recipe, but omit the seeds, increase the nuts to 1 1/3 cup and add 1/4 cup Rice Crispies. Everything else is the same!


Who likes to change it up? 
~Instead of almonds, use roasted cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, etc.
~Replace cranberries with chopped dried apricots, raisins, dried cherries, etc. 
~Add 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut for a different flavor. 


Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is a great alternative to honey, agave syrup or even maple syrup in some of your recipes. How is it made? Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia: "It's made by culturing cooked rice with enzymes (usually from dried barley sprouts) to break down starches, then straining off the liquid and reducing it by cooking until desired consistency is reached."   Not something I would try to make at home, but kinda cool! :-)

You can find this syrup at any health food store; if you are local Raley's carries it in their health food section. It's kind of expensive, but a little goes a long way.

How does it compare in sugar levels to other sweeteners? Here's the stats per 1 TB:

Brown Rice Syrup: 11g
Honey: 16g
Maple Syrup: 13g
Agave Syrup: 16g

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