Among the many blessings many of us have are many choices about what to eat. Even with inflation, Americans typically pay less for food as a percentage of their incomes than people in other countries. The more we eat out, of course, the higher the cost. And the more products of “Big Food” we buy, the bigger our bills.
A dazzling array of dietary options beckon from grocery store shelves. Crunch, color, sweet, salt, spray-on flavor, many of these products have been scientifically designed to satiate. Or, some would say, to addict. A lot of effort has gone into firing all sorts of happy triggers in our brains. Alas, what is highly pleasurable is not necessarily highly nutritious.
We do have choices, of course. But only four retailers sell more than 69% of groceries in our fair land. They, and Big Food companies like Kraft, Heinz, Pepsico and Unilever, make the choices about what is on the shelves from which you get to choose.
So we try to buy local, to subscribe to community-supported agriculture groups, even to grow a bit of our own. As convenient as it is to grab all those handy packaged foods-in-a-box, we try to make some of our own. Snack foods are especially tempting, but also heavily laden with unrecognizable ingredients and laboratory flavors.
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So we were happy to see an easy, nutritious and quick recipe for granola bars that help us avoid the box. Five ingredients, gluten-free, flavor-filled, this recipe offers flexibility, too. Peanut butter and mini chocolate chips are stars here, but you can add or substitute nuts, seeds or dried fruit. To make a vegan version, you can use “flax eggs,” a mixture of flaxseed or flaxseed meal and water. And to up the protein proportion, you can switch out half a cup of oatmeal for your favorite protein powder.
Five ingredients are all you need to make granola bars. They are soft-baked, studded with chocolate chips and perfect for healthy snaking.
5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Granola Bars
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (use verified gluten-free, if needed)
¾ cup natural peanut butter (substitute nut or seed butter for a peanut-free version)
1/3 cup maple syrup (you can substitute honey)
½ cup mini chocolate chips
2 organic whole eggs (or use flax egg for vegan-friendly, see below)
Optional: walnuts, pecans, almond, chia seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or dried fruit.
Preheat oven to 350℉. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
Transfer mixture to a greased 9-by-9-inch baking pan, firmly pressing mixture into an even layer (for easy removal, line the pan with parchment). If desired, sprinkle additional chocolate chips over top, pressing them into the mixture.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until center is baked through. Start checking at 12 minutes because all ovens are different.
Let the bars cool completely (this is important) before cutting into 16 squares or 12 to 14 bars.
Flax egg: To make enough to replace the 2 eggs in this recipe, mix 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (or flaxseed meal) with 5 tablespoons water. Let set for 5 to 10 minutes before adding to recipe.
For a boost of protein, add ½ cup of unflavored, vanilla, or chocolate protein powder and reduce oats by a ½ cup.
Lynne Ireland lives to eat and welcomes comments and questions from others who do (or don’t). Contact her at [email protected]