Cranberry-Ginger Energy Bars. Cheap, delicious, packed full of NRG!

1 07 2009

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It’s been a rough year financially here in the Sandwich Hoss household. Not titanically horrible; no one’s lost a job (thankfully!). But running a nursing home for geriatric dogs stopped simply paying for itself. Who knew emergency dog surgery could be so expensive? And insisting on driving around a Swedish car suddenly became financially impractical, too. Four hundred dollars for windshield wipers? Where do they make those damn things? On the banks of a fjord, by a large blond man named Magnuss? Yeeesh.  

So we’ve become really, really cheap frugal as we recover from the past six months. No more nights out at the club, knocking back bottles of Cristal with P-Diddy. That old sot never paid his way, anyhow. Good riddance!

In addition to nixing club-hopping with celebrities, our austerity regime includes tightening the belt at the grocery store. We’ve done what everyone is probably doing: buying more in bulk, finding less expensive cuts of meat, and quitting buying so much cheese. No, really, I calculated once that we spent more on cheese than anything else. Cheese. We were also spending a shocking amount on energy bars, namely Clif and Lara bars. At a dollar or more per bar, they add up fast. Especially when 1/4 of your diet seems to be comprised of them. Aack! What if I turn into a little patty of soy isoflavones?! I mean, I’ve consumed A LOT of those things over the years…

Well, one day I was busy shoveling a Lara bar into my greedy maw, and I looked at it closely. Really closely. Then I read the ingredients. And it occurred to me that if Lara and Clif can make their own bars, so can I, probably. After a few months of playing around with different recipes and ratios and ingredients, I came up with something that works really well for me. Chewy, moist, cinchy-to-make bars that are filling without being too filling, and that can keep me going on a bike ride or when hunger gnaws at me at work and the little grommets have me screaming, “TAKE ME TO AN EARLY GRAVE, EVIL DEVIL CHILD.” Ha ha, no, I would never think something like that at work. The kids I teach are angels.  

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But back to that recipe. These aren’t quite like Clif bars, and they’re definitely not Lara bars. I’ve done renditions of both, and realized I prefer this concoction. And the best part about them: no soy isoflavones! I’m not exactly sure what an isoflavone is, but it sounds about as creepy as one of those plastic backpacks of RoundUp that all my neighbors are wearing these days. 

Cranberry-Ginger Energy Bars

This recipe is VERY flexible. In fact, think of it as more of a set of guidelines. If you don’t like almonds, use another nut, if you hate cranberries, try chopped dried apples. Add less cereal if you want, toss in some chopped dates. Get the idea? I usually base these energy bars on whatever is on sale in the bulk foods section of my grocery store, along with whatever is left over in my pantry. 

2 cups puffed millet (or any other puffed cereal)

1/2 cup uncooked oats, whirled around in the food processor to chop them a bit (Alternately, you could use quick-cooking oats here. You just don’t really want giant oat slabs)

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup almonds, chopped up (I do mine in the food processor)

1/2 cup yogurt chips (Or chocolate chips, or white chocolate chips)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (I use spicy ones, simply because I love them)

2 tsp (Or more or less, depending on your taste) powdered ginger

3 Tbs ground flax seed (This isn’t necessary, but everyone’s SO into flax, so I feel like I should be, too)

1/2 cup nut butter (Whatever you have at home. I used homemade almond butter for these bars)

1/2 cup brown rice syrup (You can substitute other sticky sweeteners such as agave, honey, etc.  However, I’ve found that brown rice syrup gives the bars the best structural integrity. Also, it’s a great sweetener for energy bars because of the way it’s sort of time-released in your body. You don’t get a crazy sugar rush/crash)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, mix everything except for the nut butter and brown rice syrup. Combine nut butter and brown rice syrup in a small bowl and microwave for about 45 seconds, until slightly bubbly and warm and easily mixed (or do this step on the stovetop. Either way works just fine). Stir nut butter and syrup for a few seconds until nicely mixed, then add it to the dry ingredients. Stir until well combined.  

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Plop the mixture into the lined baking pan. Use another piece of foil, or maybe parchment or plastic wrap to press down the mixture into the pan as hard as you can. Really jam it down in there. Pack it real good. Don’t be afraid to really use your body weight to smoosh everything together. The first couple times I made them, I was too dainty about this step and ended up with bars that fell apart.   

Now bake for about 10 minutes. Then remove the pan from the oven and let it cool off entirely. When the cooked mixture is completely cool, carefully remove the whole honking thing from the pan and slice it into whatever sized bars you’d like. The number of bars this recipe makes totally depends on how big you want your bars to be. My most recent batch made 12 VERY GIGANTIC bars. I think I’ve gotten up to 18 bars out of a batch. 

I individually wrap mine in plastic, or store them unwrapped in plastic bags, depending on my mood. Keep them in the fridge, and they should last a week or two.  

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