Friday, September 19, 2014

Granola Bars: HomeMade & Nutrient-Packed VS Store-Bought

I try to be conscious of what food I prepare for my kids. I am always intentional that their diet contain more of the nutrient-packed food and less of processed food.  Like any kids their age, mine love chocolates, chips, ice cream... all sorts of sweets and treats. I don't want my kids to feel like I am the food nazi and deprive them of all the "junk food" that they like so much.  So I made the decision a long time ago that my kids can eat all the junk food and the sweet treats as long as we make it ourselves.

For me, homemade is the way to go! Not only do they taste better than anything bought at the grocery, but I know exactly what my kids are eating! Store-bought processed food contain all sorts of preservatives that we don't actually use when we make them at home.

I am constantly in search of recipes that incorporate healthy food into their meals. I try to tweak traditional dessert recipes to incorporate coco sugar (instead of refined white sugar), chia seeds, quinoa, etc.

Just to compare:
My granola recipe is full of the superfoods: Whole Rolled Oats, Quinoa, ChiaSeeds, Raw Nuts, Whole Oats, Flaxseeds, Coconut Oil, Honey, Coco Sugar.


This is what is listed as ingredients in a Nature Valley Trail Mix granola bar: Whole grain oats, high maltose corn syrup, almonds, honey, sugar, roasted peanuts, fructose, cranberries, canola oil, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, malt extract, baking soda, natural flavor, mixed tocopherols (to retain freshness). (sugar, preservatives and processed ingredients are in bold and italics) 
{ photo of Nature Valley ingredient list via.}


There are a lot of ingredients in store-bought granola bars that we don't even know, di ba? When I first made this, my big girl J was skeptical because, "Ma, seriously? quinoa and chia in a granola bar?"

I gave her a few bars to bring to school and swim training.  She was amazed that quite a handful asked her where she bought those because it is so good daw. My turn to say, "See? Masarap nga.  What did I tell you?"

Granola bars are one of the best snacks for my active kids because it is handy to be eaten on the go, yummy yet full of nutrients. I often have a container full of them in the freezer.
1.I let my kids eat them for Sunday breakfast when we are late for worship.  We just grab a few bars before we leave the house.  
2. They also snack on these during swim meets while they are waiting for their events. It's is filling without making their tummy feel heavy.
3. The perfect after-school merienda for days when I am busy to prepare anything.
Here's the recipe if you think you'd like to try it.  This recipe is very versatile and can handle almost any modification.  Feel free to switch up the raw nuts, the kind of choco-chips (milk, semi-sweet, dark), substitute the chia seeds with sesame seeds (although the nutritional superiority content of chia would be lost there)

This makes a very big batch, which is perfect for my family, because I like to keep a few bars in the freezer. But you can cut the recipe in half.
Superfood Granola Bars
4 cups whole rolled oats
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup ground golden flaxseeds
1 cup raw nuts ( I use Trader Joes Raw Mixed Nuts)
1/2 cup unsweetend shredded coconut
1 cup choco chips, semi-sweet
1 cup coco sugar
1 cup good quality honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 11×15-inch pan with a greased parchment paper.
2. Toss rolled oats, nuts, quinoa in the sheet pan. Toast in oven for 12-15 minutes, tossing every 5 minutes to prevent them from browning too much. Add in the shredded coconut in the last 5 minutes. Set aside.
3. Mix together honey, coco sugar, coconut oil, vanilla and salt. Stir until smooth.
4. Add remaining dry ingredients (flaxseeds, chia, choco-chips) to the sheet pan. Pour in wet mixture and stir.
5. Pack mixture into pan, and press, press, press it down firmly with hands until is is as tight as possible.
6. Bake in pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes.
7. Allow to cool, and cut into bars.

You can store a few bars in a tightly sealed container inside the refrigerator for a week or two.  I freeze excess granola bars in a tightly sealed container.  They stay crisp this way, and assures me that I always have something good to give my kids whenever they are hungry... which is most of the time.

I also like to serve the granola in clusters on top of apples with cookie butter.