Wednesday, October 5, 2011

0 Recipe #285: Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Snack Bars

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Who doesn't love peanut butter? It doesn't take much to fill you up, which is why it's the perfect food to incorporate into a snack. :)

Here's another healthy and easy-to-make snack bar recipe I've been wanting to create for a while now, but somehow happened to forget about until now. Guess it got buried somewhere in my mind amongst the 5 zillion other recipe ideas I've stashed away for another time. ;)

This recipe's a total no-brainer. You basically just toss together a bunch of ingredients and bake them.

If you're like me, you'd rather not eat most manufactured snack bars because they've got a lot of not-so-healthy things in them (i.e., HCFS, refined sugar, highly processed oils, lots of sodium, etc.). It doesn't take very much time to make these, so why the heck not, right? Certainly beats the alternative. This way, you know what is going into your food, because you're the one making it. :) You'll also save some money in the process. What's not to like?! :)

Plus, not only is it fun, but it'll make it easier to eat healthfully, as you'll have ready-made snacks that can be taken anywhere and used for multiple purposes: (1) Give them to the kids to take to school, or grab them as a quick snack for the family as you head out to your kid's soccer practice; parents are always looking for quick, easy, and healthy on-the-go snacks to make for their kids and themselves to help power them through their busy day. (2) You can also bring them in to work to keep in your desk or multimedia messenger bag; they are particularly practical for the workplace, as they have a decent shelf life if they're kept in a tightly sealed container or a sturdy resealable plastic bag. This way, you'll avoid the temptation of unhealthy snacks, especially those found in vending machines or the lunch break room. ;) (3) Take them with you on long car trips, plane or train rides, etc. (4) Keep them in the cupboard for when you get the munchies and don't want to resort to eating sugary sweets. (5) Or, use them as energy bars for refueling on the trail. It's packed with a combination of all natural carbs and protein to provide both balance and lasting energy. I often create recipes with athletes and sports nutrition in mind, and this, of course, is one of those recipes. Whatever your purpose, I hope that you'll enjoy making and eating them. :)

Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Snack Bars

Dry Ingredients:
1 c. oats, finely ground into oat flour (using a food processor)
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. rice flour (can be found online or at international supermarkets)
1/2 c. ground flaxseed
1/2 c. sesame seeds, finely ground in the food processor
2 c. unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
1 c. unsweetened coconut, shredded (can be found online or at international supermarkets)
1/2 c. dry nonfat milk powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda

Wet Ingredients:
1 c. unsalted, reduced fat, no sugar added peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. extra virgin coconut oil*

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 11" x 17" baking tray with aluminium foil (for easy cleanup). Spread the peanuts onto the tray in a single, even layer and toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown. (Nuts burn easily, so be sure to check them for doneness at regular intervals.) Remove tray from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

While nuts are cooking, mix together all dry ingredients, minus the nuts of course, (which'd be hard to do anyway since they're baking in the oven - LOL!), and pulse until finely ground. Transfer dry ingredients to an electric mixer (or large mixing bowl). Pour in all wet ingredients and mix on low speed (or fold in with a spatula). Combine just until dry ingredients have become moist. Turn off mixer. Next, add peanuts and gently mix together, being very careful not to press down on them too hard. (You don't want to mash them into oblivion. ;) ) Set aside.

Using a sturdy rubber (or silicone) spatula, scoop out the spread peanut butter mixture from the mixing bowl and spread it onto the baking tray, to a 3/4" thickness, pressing down to evenly distribute it across the tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Watch oven carefully to make sure bars do not become brittle and overly dry, &/or burned. When ready, remove from oven and place onto a wire cooling rack or heat-proof trivet. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before dividing into bars, but don't wait too long either, or they'll be more difficult to cut into. ;) So, be sure to cut into them while they're still warm. Divide into 24 rectangular bars, 2"x 4 1/4" each. Any bars you won't be consuming right away can be wrapped in wax paper and then placed into a tightly sealed plastic container or reinforced, resealable Ziploc/plastic bags for on-the-go snacking; just make sure they're completely cool before wrapping them in wax paper. ;) (Or, alternatively, wrap in wax paper, place into plastic freezer bags and freeze. These bars freeze exceptionally well.) Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes 24 rectangular, 1 1/2"x 4" bars.

Chef's Notes: To make this recipe vegan, just substitute nonfat dry soy milk powder for the nonfat dry milk powder.

*When I initially made these, I used only 1/4 c. coconut oil to try to keep the fat content as low as possible. The batter still binds together but once it's been baked, the bars do tend to become a bit crumbly and hard to keep in one piece. So please keep this in mind. While adding an additional 1/4 c. would certainly make them more pliable and keep them from falling apart so easily, these bars are going to be crumbly regardless. :) Also, they still taste great with 1/4 c. coconut oil, so there's really no need to add more, unless you want to spend more time working it off at the gym. ;) (In truth, your body doesn't actually burn off the fat that you eat from your diet, but rather only the existing body fat stores that you've already accumulated.) In any case, the choice is up to you. :)

Also, there's no need to freak out about the use of coconut oil. ;) Coconut oil, when consumed in moderate amounts, is actually one of the few healthy saturated fats that actually helps to create/burn energy within the body, as opposed to most (animal-based) saturated fats, which have minimal health benefits & just end up sticking to your rear end. ;) It's not uncommon for athletes to ingest small amounts of coconut oil to naturally enhance their energy during workouts. When used in moderation, it's also been shown to be beneficial as a weight loss aid as well.

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