Sunday, May 12, 2013

Peanut Butter Victory Bars

Sometimes my do-it-yourself attitude can get a little exhausting. Most of the time I love my devotion to doing things myself, especially when it comes to cooking from scratch, but sometimes I'm so busy and exhausted I just want to throw up my hands and buy what I need. And I almost did with these granola bars. After spending the entire weekend working outside and running errands, I was very close to abandoning my Sunday afternoon snack-making plan. Now that I've tasted this delicious granola bars, I can't believe I almost missed out on these super-easy and almost no-bake bars. For just the time to it takes to mix a couple of bowls of ingredients together and then combine them, I was rewarded with two weeks of scrumptious work snacks. 

In my opinion, there's practically no way to go wrong with peanut butter and honey, and this perfect pair blends all my other nutritious ingredients together in a perfect balance of richness and sweetness. They perhaps have a bit more sugar that I'd typically go for in an AM snack, but at least I'm treating myself with plenty of whole grains, nuts, and omega-3s in the mix as well. For an extra-special touch, spread a thin layer of melted dark chocolate over the bars before putting them in the fridge. 

Peanut Butter Victory Bars
adapted from CHOW
makes 10 bars

Oil, for coating the pan
1 1/2 cups crispy brown rice cereal
1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds
1/4 cup raw wheat germ
2 tablespoons unsweetened, untoasted, dried coconut flakes
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1/2 cup honey or brown rice syrup
3 tablespoons natural smooth unsalted peanut or almond butter
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.

2. Place rice cereal, oats, almonds, wheat germ, coconut, and flax seed meal on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with your hands to combine, and spread in an even layer. Bake, stirring halfway through, until almonds are light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.

3. Place rice syrup or honey, peanut or almond butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until mixture is combined and brown sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, immediately add cereal mixture, and stir until combined. Transfer mixture to the prepared baking pan and, using a spoon, spread it evenly, pushing it into the corners.
4. When the mixture is cool enough to handle but is still warm, evenly and firmly press it into the pan with your hands. Place it in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
5. Remove the nutty oat slab from the pan (you may need to run a knife around the perimeter to loosen it). Cut it in half to form two rectangles, then cut each rectangle width-wise into 5 bars to form 10 bars total. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 weeks; let frozen bars come to room temperature before eating.

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