Category Archives: Bars

bars

Healthy Fruit, Nut and Seed Energy Bars

fruit and nut bars 1

We’re all extremely busy and finding the time to eat healthy AND filling food, especially snacks in between meals, isn’t always easy.  Mid-morning and/or mid-afternoon was always when I would reach for a quick carb or sugar fix.  But I was finding that eating this type of food between meals really burned me out and made me feel sluggish.  Now I like to eat bars loaded with nuts, dried fruit and seeds.  These give me tonnes of vitamins and nutrients, fill me up, give me energy and satisfy my sweet tooth all at the same time!  

Most of the bars I see at the store are really expensive and loaded with preservatives and sugar.  The really good ones are better for you, but they cost a fortune.  If I was living alone the cost might be worth it, but I have 2 boys and a husband who are ALWAYS hungry and looking for a quick, convenient snack so we’d go through a $20 box of bars in about 3 days!

These homemade bars are a lot cheaper than store-bought ones.

COST SAVING SUGGESTION:  I recommend buying all  seeds, oats, dried fruit, and nuts from BULK bins.  It’s WAAAAY cheaper than buying pre-packaged items and you have more control over the quantity you’re buying.

These bars, in my opinion, taste WAY better than anything from the store.  They’re a perfect combination of salty and sweet.  They have a great crunch from the nuts and a wonderful chewiness from the fruit.  The coconut oil prevents them from being dry and the almond extract adds just a hint of ‘cherry’ flavour that I LOVE.  

Since there’s no baking involved, it’s really just mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ones, pressing it into a pan, and chilling it.  That’s it!  You can literally make these in under 10 minutes!

These bars are PERFECT to take along on long car rides, hikes, bike rides, park play, etc.  or just to grab and eat on your way out the door.  The best part is, my kids love them as much as I do and actually consider them a ‘treat’.  I even give them to them for dessert!

NOTE:  If you don’t like/have something, simply substitute it for something you DO have/like or just add more of another ingredient instead.  I used mixed nuts because I always have a container of them on hand.  Same with the dried fruit.  I like as many flavours in these bars as possible but you can always use just one kind of nut/dried fruit….  Have fun with these and switch up the fruit and nuts for different flavour combinations!

INGREDIENTS 

DRY

  • 1 Tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/8 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 dates – chopped into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup puffed rice (I used Rice Krispies)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup mixed, unsalted nuts – chopped (cashews, almonds, macadamias, pistachios, peanuts, pecans, etc….)

WET

  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil

METHOD

  • Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • In a saucepan, combine all the ‘wet’ ingredients and heat over low heat, stirring often, until the peanut butter until everything is combined.  Around 2 – 3 minutes.
  • pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and fold together using a spatula until all the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
  • Using a wax/parchment paper lined baking pan (around 7×7″ – 9×9″ in size), spread the mixture evenly and press down firmly until the mix is even and condensed into the pan.
  • NOTE:  taking the time to press firmly and evenly all over the mixture is important so they don’t fall apart when you cut them.  You want to condense the bars as much as possible.  I put a piece of wax paper on top and then use a bag of rice or other weight on top while it’s chilling.
  • Put in fridge and chill for at least 1 hour before removing parchment paper from the pan and cutting the block into whatever sized bars you want.
  • Store in an air tight container in the fridge or at room temperature.

fruit and nut bars

 

 

OMG Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Caramel and Pretzel Bars with Sea Salt

chocolate peanut butter bars

I’ve always preferred to cook savoury foods as opposed to sweet ones.  Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE sweets.  Especially anything with chocolate.  I’ve just never experimented much with baking and/or dessert.  I tend to stick with the classics and prefer to buy anything that’s at all complicated to make.

However, this year I decided to  participate in a cookie/baked goods exchange since my entire family will be at my place for the holidays and this was a perfect way to have a variety of different holiday treats on hand with minimal work and without spending a fortune by buying everything at the store.

I decided if I was going to do this ‘holiday baking’ thing, I was gonna damn well do it right.  My fantasy was to create something that had EVERYTHING I’ve ever wanted in one bite.  Buttery graham cracker crust, soft, rich chocolate, creamy fluffy peanut butter, crunchy pretzels, Rice Krispies and toffee and of course, gooey caramel and sea salt.  AH-MAZING.

These turned out better than I ever could have imagined.  By far my best ‘dessert achievement’. EVER.  I’m OBSESSED with these things.  They are everything I could have ever dreamed of in a dessert bar and more.  This will now officially and forever more be a holiday tradition in my house.  I have a feeling I’ll be breaking out the stretchy pants this year….

WARNING:  It’s nearly impossible to eat just one/three and they’re just as good straight out of the freezer…. Proceed with caution!

chocolate bars with salt

INGREDIENTS (makes 24 – 60+ bars depending on what size you want to cut them)

Graham cracker layer:

  • 2.5 cups honey graham cracker crumbs (or regular graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted, melted butter

Bottom chocolate layer:

  • 1 cup milk chocolate melting wafers (or chocolate chips or any chocolate YOU like)
  • 2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter

Peanut butter and pretzel layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups pretzels, crushed up into smaller pieces

Caramel, peanut and Rice Krispies layer:

  • 1 – cup caramel sauce 
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup salted peanuts
  • OPTIONAL:  3/4 cup Rice Krispies cereal
  • NOTE:  you could just use 1 cup of peanuts OR 1 cup of Rice Krispies for kids who don’t like nuts, but I used both!

Top chocolate layer:

  • 1 1/4 cup milk chocolate melting wafers (or whatever chocolate you like)
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Topping:

  • 1/4 tsp flaked sea salt
  • OPTIONAL:  1/3 cup Hershey’s toffee bits

METHOD:

  • Using a 13″ x 10″ pan, line with foil and spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Melt butter and mix with graham cracker crumbs.  Press crumbs evenly onto foil and chill in freezer for 15 minutes.
  • While graham cracker is in freezer, place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter, stirring until smooth.  Spread evenly over graham cracker crust.  Chill in freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Spread over chocolate layer.
  • Spread crushed pretzels evenly over peanut butter layer and press into the mixture a bit.

bars with pretzels

  • Make caramel sauce according to recipe directions and immediately spread/drizzle on top of pretzels.
  • Top with peanuts and/or Rice Krispies and press into caramel a bit.  Chill in freezer for 15 minutes.

bars with rice krispies use

  • Melt the 2nd chocolate and peanut butter layer the same way you did the first chocolate/peanut butter layer.  Pour on top of caramel.
  • Add toffee bits, if using and sprinkle with sea salt.
  • Allow bars to chill in fridge for at least 1 hour before slicing.
  • NOTE:  DO NOT try to slice the bars at room temperature because the peanut butter will have softened and the bars will become messy and squishy.

bars finished in pan

Bars will become soft if left at room temperature.  They are best if stored in the fridge and served immediately or within 10 minutes of coming out of fridge.

chocolate peanut butter bars

 

 

 

 

 

Cherry Coconut Cashew Bars with Dark Chocolate

cherry coconut cashew energy bars with dark chocolate

cherry coconut cashew energy bars with dark chocolate

Granola bars and/or energy bars I have bought in the past have always been loaded with additives and other things I don’t want.  They’re also either too dry, too crunchy, too sweet or have too much fat and calories.  The few that I do like are REALLY expensive.  So a while back I decided to try my hand at making my own.  I figured it would be really easy.  It wasn’t.  I tried a LOT of different recipes and although some of them were good, I didn’t find anything that was great.  Some of them were too dry and fell apart.  Others were too chewy and dense.  The list goes on and on.   I decided to use a few different recipes as a guideline to get the ratio of ingredients right so that my bars would be the consistency I wanted, but I made up my own recipe based on my favourite things (I’ll eat ANYTHING with cherries and dark chocolate!!).

After making this recipe FIVE times, I have finally come up with what I feel is the perfect amount of each ingredient.  The wonderful thing about this recipe is how you can simply substitute one thing for an equal amount of another to customize it.  For instance, you could use almonds or peanuts instead of cashews.  You could use almond or cashew butter in place of peanut butter.  You could use sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds instead of coconut.  You could use milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate.  You could even use cranberries instead of cherries…  You get the idea.

Now that I have the ratios down, I will be experimenting with all kinds of amazing flavour combinations!  (I already tried the recipe with dried blueberries and almonds instead of cashews and cherries and it was amazing).

MONEY SAVING TIP:  Some of the ingredients can be quite expensive (nuts, dried cherries, coconut, etc).  I always recommend buying any ingredients possible from the bulk bins to save LOTS of money.  My dry storage is now filled with jars of assorted nuts, dried fruit, seeds, chocolate chips and other ingredients I can ‘play with’!

I have been eating a LOT more nuts, seeds and oats lately and it’s been amazing.  I find that I’m snacking much less on sugary or carb heavy foods and the protein and fibre from the nuts and seeds keeps me full for hours.  I always grab a small energy bar or just a handful of nuts before a workout and I’ve been performing better than ever.

I’m not going to be turning into a gluten-free vegan any time soon but incorporating all these natural, super healthy ingredients into my diet is definitely becoming part of my lifestyle as opposed to a fad.

The below bars are my favourite flavour combination yet.  I’m obsessed with the mix of cashews, coconut, cherry and dark chocolate!!  SO GOOD.  I hope you, and your family, enjoy these as much as mine does!

*Anywhere you can afford to use natural, organic ingredients, I always recommend it.  However, it can increase the cost significantly so it’s completely up to you.  One of the main reasons to make your  own bars, after all, is to save money.

INGREDIENTS (makes 16 square bars)

DRY

  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup puffed rice (you could use brown puffed rice.  I used Rice Krispies)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted cashews – rough chop
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (use less if you want to make them even healthier)
  • 3/4 cup tart dried cherries
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 tsp salt

WET

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (natural peanut butter is recommended)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

METHOD

  • Heat ‘wet’ ingredients and the salt over low heat in a pot until smooth and combined.  Around 2 minutes.
  • Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl (except chocolate chips unless you want the chocolate to melt).  It’s great both ways.
  • NOTE:  If you want the chocolate to melt all the way through, add the chocolate into the mix before you add the wet ingredients.  If you want to have chocolate chips throughout, LEAVE THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS OUT OF THE MIX UNTIL AFTER YOU ADD THE WET INGREDIENTS TO THE DRY INGREDIENTS.  (Otherwise the warm peanut butter mixture will melt the chocolate.  I learned this the hard way).
pouring wet ingredients into dry ingredients

pouring wet ingredients into dry ingredients

  • Pour wet ingredients from the pot into the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix to combine (I use my hands to do this).  Once it’s cooled down a bit you can add the chocolate chips.
  • Line a baking pan/dish with parchment or wax paper and spray with Pam cooking spray (or use a little canola oil).
  • Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan.
energy bars pressed into pan

energy bars pressed into pan

  • Refrigerate  for at least ONE HOUR.
  • Carefully lift parchment/wax paper out of pan and onto cutting board.
  • Cut into bars in whatever size or shape you wish.
energy bars cut into squares

energy bars cut into squares

  • Store in an air-tight container at room temperature with parchment paper separating pieces so they don’t stick together.

energy bars