Back by Popular Demand! How to Make Your Own Granola Bars

How to Save a Million Dollars a Year

How to Make Your Own Granola Bars!

Granola Bars

OK, making my own granola bars did not save me a million dollars last year.  It may have only been half a million dollars.  Or maybe just enough for an occasional, guilt free (mostly) massage at a fabulous spa.  But more to the point, store bought granola bars are expensive.  They don’t seem that way, as you’re pushing your cart down the cereal isle… $3 or so seems harmless enough, right?  The problem is, many of those $3 boxes only contain 5 bars.  Even that might seem reasonable if everyone was happy with one bar.  I, however, have been blessed with boys.  Growing boys.  Have you seen growing boys raid a kitchen after school?  It’s an awe inspiring, slightly terrifying sight to behold.

My darling boys could obliterate a whole shelf of granola bars in only the time it would take them to tear through all of that wasteful packaging.  If I continued buying granola bars from the supermarket, I was going to need to supplement my income by renting out my boys for farm labor.  They didn’t seem too keen on the idea, so Option B required me to create an easy, low cost granola bar that would pass muster with the kids.  Three different versions became fast favorites.  I hope you enjoy them!  Don’t forget to post your comments below!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part I:  Apple Cinnamon
I make a lot of jellies and jams (recipes coming soon!).  Occasionally, a batch of jelly or jam won’t turn out quite right – it’s either overcooked so that it’s too thick to spread, or undercooked so that it resembles syrup.  Because I’m too frugal to just throw them away, my “jars of mistakes” have been taking up shelf space, waiting to be put to good use.  Well, it’s Good Use Time!  You can use any apple jelly for this recipe, whether a store-bought version or a homemade version, even if it’s underwhelming on its own.
Combine dry goods and set aside:Dry Ingredients
3 cups of whole oats
1 cup of high fiber cereal
3/4 cup of diced, dried apples
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamonButter and Jelly
Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:
¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)
1 cup apple jelly

Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.  picture055

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage.

Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Part II: Wild Blueberry

Two summers ago, my family spent a week on the Maine Coast (beautiful… highly recommend!).  Kitchen goofball that I am, I managed to squeeze my canning pot, canning utensils, and a case of half pint canning jars into the back of the family minivan.  I was on a quest to purvey enough of the fabled wild Maine blueberries to make 12 jars of jam, and I succeeded… sort of.

I overcooked the jam.

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth.  There may have been a few words uttered that would, ah, make a Sunday School teacher blush.  But… Crowded Earth Kitchen wastes NOTHING!  Despite having no earthly idea how I would salvage those blueberries, I packed my 12 jars of crystallized blueberry “rock” into the van and brought them home.

You may use any blueberry jam for this recipe (I salvaged mine by soaking the jars in scalding hot water).  You might even get wild and crazy and try using another variety of jam.  If you create your own version, please let me know how it turns out!

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 1/2 cups of whole oats

1 cup of high fiber cereal

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

1 cup blueberry jam

Blueberry Bars Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars, Version III: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip 

Combine dry goods and set aside:

3 cups of whole oats

¾ cup of high fiber cereal (any variety will suffice)

1 cup of chopped pretzels (if you like salt) or crispie rice cereal (if you don’t)

Combine in a large pot and boil for two minutes:

¼ cup butter (or vegan substitute)

½ cup natural peanut butter

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup honey (or maple syrup as a vegan substitute)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars  Remove from heat, stir in dry ingredients. Line a 9” x 13” cookie sheet (preferably one with low sides) with parchment paper. Pour mixture onto center of parchment paper; let cool for a few moments until safe to touch. With wet hands (prevents sticking), press mixture to evenly cover parchment paper.

Then, press mini chocolate chips into the top of the granola bars (I used two tablespoons; use more if you don’t mind the sugar, or don’t use them at all). Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm. Lift parchment paper and set on large cutting board. Cut mixture into 16 granola bars. Line each bar with parchment and refrigerate or freeze for storage. Enjoy!

Amazing Oatmeals

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I can’t think of a breakfast more devoted to overall wellness than a bowl of properly dressed oatmeal.  I really can’t.  For only 150 calories, a single cup of oats contains about 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.  The soluble fiber in oats, called beta-glucan, is special.  This fiber has repeatedly been shown to lower cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  Still not convinced?  What if I tell you that the beta-glucan in oats has also been linked to more stable blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes?  It’s true.

How much of this special fiber does it take to improve your health, you ask?  Only the amount found in a daily bowl of oatmeal.  So, let’s do ourselves a favor this morning.  Let’s both agree to say “No” to preservative-laden boxed cereals, skip the donuts with our coffee, and instead enjoy properly dressed bowls of oatmeal together.

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Directions

Stir together the ingredients for the blend of your choice, below, in a small mixing bowl.  Pack into a pint size mason jar.  For each serving, scoop out 1/2 cup of mixture from the mason jar and place in a microwave-safe bowl.  Add 1 cup of water and microwave for 2 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Enjoy!

Apple Walnut Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1 tablespoon flax seed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/3 cup chopped dried apples

1/3 cup raw walnuts

Blueberry Quinoa Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup quinoa

1/4 cup dried blueberries

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Cherry Almond Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1/3 cup raw almonds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup dried tart cherries

Coconut Almond Blend (makes 4 servings)

1 1/3 cups rolled oats

1/3 cup raw almonds

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/3 cup dried, shaved coconut

I feel better already, don’t you?

Busy Breakfast Cookies

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Anyone who claims that they never, ever leave the house in the morning without first enjoying a wholesome breakfast is either wearing their superhero cape under their regular-person work clothes or is lying.  Of this, I am completely convinced.  In many homes, if everyone makes it out the door with brushed teeth and two shoes, that’s a victory.  Breakfast?  That’s a bonus…

…but not anymore!  This recipe is fast and easy, tastes great, freezes well, and offers a complete, portable, low sugar, high fiber breakfast.  Tomorrow morning, grab one or two of these as you race out the door.  Have a great day!

picture365Ingredients (makes 16 large cookies)

1 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup whole oats

1/2 cup high fiber breakfast cereal

1/3 cup raisins

picture3671/4 cup chopped dried apples

1 tablespoon quinoa

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

2 tablespoons softened butter

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup all natural applesauce

1 teaspoon almond extract

picture368Directions

Step 1) Combine first 11 ingredients (all dry ingredients except sugar) in a large mixing bowl.  Blend well.

Step 2) Combine last 7 ingredients (all wet ingredients plus sugar) in a small mixing bowl.  Blend well, and add to dry ingredients.  Stir until picture371just combined.

Step 3) Drop heaping tablespoons of cookie dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 4) Bake in preheated, 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Parchment paper may be reused once or twice before discarding.  Enjoy!

Five-Spice Blueberry Muffins

(Psst!  Have you checked out the Whimsy page lately?)

picture071Muffins have an unfair reputation in the realm of healthy eating.  Not all muffins fall into the “may as well eat a jumbo chocolate éclair” category.  In fact, muffins can be high in fiber, low in fat, AND delicious.

There are two tricks to this recipe.  First, use all natural applesauce.  If you’re buying applesauce at the market, read the ingredients.  If you see sugar, corn syrup, or anything weird, put it back.  Apples are sweet enough to make delicious sauce all on their own.  Trust me.  I turned four bushels of apples into sauce this past year, using one ingredient… apples.  Second, invest in a small jar of Chinese five-spice powder.  For just a few dollars, you will be able to add the delightful combination of cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger, and cloves to your baked goods for many months.  A little goes a long way!

Ingredients

1 cup white flour

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup oats

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup skim milk

1/4 cup applesauce

3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

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Directions

Step 1) Line a dozen standard size muffin cups with foil liners (preferable), or grease the muffin cups well.  Do not use paper liners, as they will stick.  Set aside.

Step 2) Combine all dry ingredients and mix well.

Step 3) Combine egg, milk, and applesauce in a separate bowl and mix well.

Step 4) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until moistened.  Don’t get carried away… it’s OK if the batter is a little bit lumpy!

Step 5) Gently fold in blueberries.  Save a dozen blueberries for the next step.

Step 6) Fill muffin liners or muffin cups 2/3 full.  Place one blueberry on the top of each scoop of batter.

Step 7) Bake at 400 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!