Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Veggie Might: Birdseed Granola Bars from the Snackmaster

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a regular Thursday feature about all things Vegetarian. It's coming a day early this week, and Wednesday's regularly scheduled article will appear on Thursday.

Every office has a snackmaster: that one person who supplies the junk food, whether it be chocolate, cookies, or Doritos. At one office, there was a woman who baked for us weekly, though she never ate the “goodies” herself. Note to all cooks and bakers out there: taste before you serve. It’s the merciful thing to do.

But no one can live up to the legendary candy supply of a former colleague at my current job. She kept a variety of miniature candy bars and snack-size chocolates at her desk for anyone and everyone. If she found out your preference, it was available the next day. If you didn’t come by for candy, she would bring it to you. If she was out, it was my job to go into her desk and put out the candy.

It was all but impossible to maintain any kind of restraint with all that candy around. I started bringing granola bars from home or getting them from the vending machine to deflect the mini-Reese’s foil beacon. Sometimes it worked; sometimes I ate candy and granola.

Either way, it got expensive. Not to mention the granola bars in the vending machine went from relatively healthy to practically candy once I polished off the row of crunchy ones.

Ever since then, I’ve been meaning to make my own. A while ago, I saw an episode of Good Eats in which Alton Brown, food alchemist and whiz kid, whips up a batch of homemade granola bars. It inspired me to give it a whirl, but I failed miserably. I think I cooked the sugar too long, because they came out hard as a brick. I feared for my teeth.

This weekend, I decided to try again. I had read a great post on Everybody Likes Sandwiches about making granola cereal with millet or quinoa. Between these sources, the contents of my kitchen, and my disdain of dried fruit, I came up with these pretty awesome granola bars.

They’re nutty and not too sweet; crunchy without breaking teeth; and the perfect size for a late afternoon snack. They do crumble a bit more than I’d like, but I’m not complaining. I took a few bars to work and offered them around. People were pleasantly surprised and a couple of folks came back for seconds.

Compared to my favorite store-bought granola bars (not the candy-coated or chewy kinds), my homemade version came out about the same nutrition-wise (not counting preservatives, of course), and about $.20­–$.30 cheaper/bar, depending on the store.

The best part: these granola bars look like birdseed. The millet and quinoa (I used the red kind) make them look like those blocks of seed my mom puts in her bird feeder. It just makes me giggle; I don’t know why. Hey, millet is birdseed. And peoplefeed. Yum.

These granola bars were so easy; I think I can make them a regular part of my work food repertoire. Anything to keep me away from the vending machine and the new office snackmaster. Unless I’m becoming her.

Birdseed Granola Bars
Adapted from Alton Brown’s Granola Bars
Inspired by Everybody Likes Sandwiches who was inspired by Mark Bittman
Makes approximately 20 1-oz bars

(Note: see AB’s recipe for approximate volume measurements.)

8 oz rolled oats
2 1/2 oz millet
2 1/2 oz quinoa (rinse and dry on a dish towel before mixing with other grains)
3 oz almonds (chopped)
3 oz pecans (chopped)
1 1/2 oz wheat germ
1/2 oz vegan butter
1 3/4 oz dark brown sugar
3 oz agave nectar
3 oz maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9” x 13” baking pan with cooking spray or vegan butter.

2) Combine dry ingredients (oats, millet, quinoa, almonds, pecans, and wheat germ). Spread on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. (Reduce oven to 300 when removed.)

3) Combine wet ingredients + salt in large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until brown sugar is just dissolved. Remove from heat.

4) Add toasted grains and nuts to sugar mixture and combine thoroughly. Press into coated baking pan and press flat.

5) Bake at 300 for 25 minutes.

6) Allow to cool almost completely before cutting. It will be easier to cut if it’s just a bit warm.

7) Sure beats a Reese’s. Okay, but it’s still really good.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
161.73 calories, 6.8g fat, $.45

8 oz rolled oats: 848 calories, 16g fat, $.84
2 1/2 oz millet: 265 calories, 2.5g fat, $.35
2 1/2 oz quinoa: 257 calories, 6g fat, $.35
3 oz almonds: 483 calories, 42g fat, $1.25
3 oz pecans: 597 calories, 60g fat, $1.78
1 1/2 oz wheat germ: 150 calories, 4.5g fat, $.30
1/2 oz vegan butter: 50 calories, 5.5g fat, $.06
1 3/4 oz dark brown sugar: 185.5 calories, 0g fat, $.06
3 oz agave nectar: 180 calories, 0g fat, $1.09
3 oz maple syrup: 219 calories, 0g fat, $2.81
2 tsp vanilla: negligible calories and fat, $.02
1/2 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
Totals: 3234.5 calories, 136.5g fat, $9.01
Per Serving: 161.73 calories, 6.8g fat, $.45


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