Jan 07 2012

No-Bake Bars? No Kidding!

Once upon a time, they were just candy bars or snack cakes or granola bars. Now they’re “energy” bars. And they’re big business. Incessantly promoted by a seemingly endless queue of celebrity athletes, they command astonishing prices. Of course, if the taste were commensurate with the cost, they might well be worth the exorbitant tariff. But while I certainly haven’t sampled every energy bar on the market—that would be a full-time job for someone with a hedge-fund manager’s disposable income—the ones that I have tried invariably disappointed. So I figured I could come up with something better.

And I think I did. Here are two recipes that deliver both taste and nutrition—carbs for quick energy, plus a dollop of high-quality protein for maintenance and just enough fat to keep you going over the long haul. They’re easy to make, too. Why? Because they’re no-bake bars. You won’t even have to open your oven door. Just mix dry ingredients with a warm binder, spoon into a lightly oiled baking pan, cover with waxed paper, press down, and chill. Then cut into bars and wrap for storage. That’s all there is to it. Give them a try yourself and see what you think.

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Apple Bars

Ingredients:

    •  Cooking oil
    •  1¼ cups puffed brown rice
    •  1 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
    •  2 tablespoons flax seeds
    •  ¼ cup chopped dried apples
    •  ¼ cup finely cut walnuts
    •  ½ teaspoon salt
    •  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    •  ¼ teaspoon cardamom
    •  ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

    •  13 cup maple syrup
    •  ½ cup peanut butter
    •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The fine print: Oil an 8-inch-square baking dish very sparingly and set to one side. Mix the puffed rice, oats, seeds, apples, walnuts, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Now put the maple syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring all the while. When the syrup-peanut butter mix is smooth and uniform—this is the binder I mentioned earlier—remove the pot from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Then pour the still-warm, syrupy mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until the binder coats everything evenly. Next, scrape the contents of the bowl into your oiled baking dish, using a metal spoon to even things out.

Now cut a piece of waxed paper just wide enough to cover the dish and place it over the mixture. Press down on the waxed paper, compacting and leveling the contents of the baking dish. Once you have a dense, uniform cake, chill for an hour in the fridge, leaving the waxed paper in place. When thoroughly chilled, cut into squares or bars with a sharp knife and wrap each piece individually in waxed paper before returning the bars to the fridge. (If you’ll be keeping the bars longer than a week, freeze them.)

Heading out? Just grab a handful of your no-bake bars and go. What could be easier?

 

Not a fan of peanut butter? Then try…

Fruity Wheat and Oat No-Bake Bars

Ingredients:

    •  Cooking oil
    •  1¾ cups old-fashioned oats
    •  ½ cup chopped walnuts
    •  ½ cup soy nuts, crushed
    •  ¼ cup sesame seeds
    •  ¼ cup flax seeds
    •  ½ teaspoon salt
    •  1½ cups puffed wheat cereal
    •  1 cup dried cherries
    •  ½ cup dried cranberries

    •  1 cup honey
    •  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

As before, oil an 8-inch-square baking dish and place the dry ingredients in a large bowl. I toast the oats, walnuts, soy nuts, and seeds on a large cookie sheet in a preheated 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for five minutes first. This yields a more robust flavor, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble, or if you’re determined to hold me to my promise that you won’t have to open your oven door, don’t bother. If you do elect to toast, however, don’t wander off. Burning won’t improve the flavor!

Next, pour the honey into a small saucepan and warm over medium heat while stirring constantly. When the honey offers little resistance to the spoon, add the vanilla extract, stir, and pour the still-warm liquid over the dry ingredients. Now you’ll need to work fast, before the honey cools. Stir the sticky mixture in the bowl with a metal spoon until everything is evenly coated with honey, then scrape the contents into the prepared baking dish. Use your spoon to spread the mixture out evenly, cover with waxed paper, and press down. Chill for an hour (or longer) in the fridge, leaving the waxed paper in place, before cutting into squares and wrapping each one individually in waxed paper. If you’ll be eating the bars within the week, store in the fridge in a tightly sealed plastic bag. If you’ll be keeping them longer, however, freeze them, removing only what you’ll want for each outing.

 

No-bake bars. They don’t carry any celebrity endorsements, but they’ll help you go the distance—and they taste good, to boot. I think that’s the best recommendation of all. What about you?

No-Bake Credit Crunch Bars

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