By: Ryan Hodros, Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts Graduate
Any regular readers have probably noticed that I tend to veer more heavily to the side of desserts rather than savory applications. This is partially because I find desserts to be much more challenging, but primarily because I have a sweet tooth like you wouldn’t believe. If I had my way, I’d eat pie at least once per day, and I’d replace water with soda so fast it would make your head spin.
Unfortunately, this means I have some difficulties keeping the weight off. When I successfully diet, I wind up agonizing over the dessert section in the menu or the baking section of the grocery store. But when I indulge, I tend to balloon up fast. This doesn’t even touch on the complete lack of nutrition in most candy bars and cakes.
So this week, I decided to turn my attention to something sweet and somewhat good for you. The obvious choice for me was granola bars—much of the “granola” you find at the store is sticky sugar wrapped in chocolate (a candy bar in all but name) but I wanted to go further than that. After a few experiments, I think I may have come up with a granola bar that is not only sweet and tasty, but also gets you some vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
(Let me make a disclaimer here: I’m not a dietician, and this should not be used as part of any medically necessary diet. I’m basically coming up with a low sugar, high fiber dessert, so don’t think eating these will magically keep the weight off. It’s helped with my sweet tooth, but exercise and fewer bags of Skittles are no doubt helping more.)
First some notes: Please don’t lose your marbles trying to find “oatmeal flour” at your local grocery story, and absolutely do not shell out boutique prices for it. Simply take rolled oats like you’d use to you’re your morning oatmeal and blow it through your food processor or blender until it powderizes. It’s seriously that easy. Take it as fine as you like—I prefer it on the coarse side because it adds texture, but that’s up to you.
If you roll your eyes at “wheat germ” down there, relax. I get toasted wheat germ in the baked goods section of King Soopers. It gives a pleasant nutty flavor and a good amount of texture to your granola, as well as some vitamin E and Folic Acid (according to the label).
I use Splenda because I find it to be the least objectionable sugar substitute (taste wise). Be forewarned, cookies with Splenda have a funny aftertaste. But it does keep the calories down, and that’s why I use it. But if you hate the idea of artificial sweeteners, I would use the same amount of brown sugar. It’ll bump the calories, but be more natural.
You can use just about any honey in this application, but since we’re shooting for healthy, I used raw and unfiltered. It was like a buck more, and I could make something like five batches out of what I bought, so it’s worth it. Still, no pressure—if you like the little bear’s honey, I won’t judge.
Chinese Five Spice is simply a favorite of mine—feel free to experiment with other spice combinations.
I do the fixins in this ratio mostly because raisins are cheap, craisins are not, and chocolate chips make the granola an easier sell. Feel free to mix and match these with whatever dried fruits, nuts, chips, etc you think would go with this recipe. Just try to remember—it’s supposed to be somewhat healthy. So crunched up bacon (while delicious) wouldn’t be in the spirit of the recipe.
Oatmeal granola bars
¾ cup butter, softened
½ cup Splenda
¾ cup wheat germ
¼ cup honey
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup oatmeal flour
½ cup ap flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon Chinese five spice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¾ cups rolled oats
10 oz raisins
5 oz craisins
5 oz chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
In large bowl, cream together the butter, Splenda, honey, and wheat germ until smooth. Beat in the eggs and yolk and vanilla until fully incorporated.
In a separate bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, spices, oats and salt. Gradually beat into butter mixture. Then toss your fixins in and mix until evenly spread. Most of your flour is oatmeal (no gluten) so you don’t have to be as paranoid about overworking your dough as you normally would be, but don’t get too nuts in this step
I portion the dough into two ounce rounds in order to make them look like cookies, but you can put them in just about any shape and size. Simply stick them in the freezer for about five minutes before baking to keep them from spreading, but if you like to live dangerously, skip this step and let them spread. Just don’t let them freeze solid, or they’ll get all melty and weird in the oven.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, remove from sheet to wire rack. Cool completely before eating. I highly recommend having a coffee with them—not because they’ll be dry, but because it’s an amazing pairing.
I’m not sure whether or not I’d consider this recipe a breakfast substitute (though I’d wager it’s more nutritious than most cereals and toaster pastries), but one or two of them with your lunch is the perfect way to quell your craving for sweets until you get home from work!