June 25, 2012

On the trail: in search of allergy-friendly granola bars

Our family had a blast camping over the weekend.  There's just nothing like a warm fire, S'mores, homemade scones, and seeing kids involved in endless fun activities that only involve trees, sticks, a few wheeled toys, a couple of hills, and an endless supply of dirt.  It's totally worth the five loads of laundry!
It is confirmed: a hill of dirt is even more engaging than a cardboard box!
Camping gave me the motivation to test-drive and tweak some more granola bar recipes.  While I really liked the last year's granola bars, a substantial portion of the ingredients was wheat-based.  I have been trying to cut down on my gluten/wheat intake.  I get bloated from eating pasta and a few months back suffered debilitating abdominal pain after eating foccaccia so I've been careful to add other healthy gluten-free grains into the mix.  Instead of trying to figure out substitutions for last year's granola recipe, I figured why not explore some new alternatives?

Granola bars without the dried cranberries
I found a very handy granola recipe on the fAnnetastic food blog, a nice site for recipes and tips for a healthy lifestyle.  Blogger Anne's recipe was already vegan and gluten-free.  I tweaked it a little to make it nut-free and reduced the amount of dried cranberries, which I found to be overwhelmingly sweet.  I used quinoa flour instead of the suggested garbanzo flour since that is what was in the pantry.  Quinoa flour added a nice slightly nutty (without the nuts!) taste which was nice for the earthly, natural taste of granola bars.  Both quinoa and garbanzo flours are protein-rich so whichever option you choose will be a nice addition to your bar.

The original recipe called for 2/3 cup of dried cranberries.  In my recipe below I reduced the amount of dried cranberries that the original recipe called for because I found the granola bars overly sweet.  Many of my camping friends didn't mind the full 2/3 cup of cranberries though!  In a second batch of granola bars I omitted the cranberries although and just used roasted pumpkin seeds and semisweet chocolate chips.  This was just right for me.  :)

GFCF Vegan Nut-free Granola  Bars
Adapted from the recipe for vegan & gluten free granola bars from fAnnetastic foods. 

2 Tbsp flaxmeal + 6 Tbsp warm water, mixed
1 3/4 cup gluten-free oats
1 cup quinoa flour
1/3 cup roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas
1/3 cup dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips  (I like Trader Joe's.  For soy-free, use Enjoy Life chips, mega chunks, or mini-chips.)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup maple syrup  

  1. Mix flaxmeal and warm water together.  Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, toss together all the dry ingredients
  3. Add sunflower seed butter and maple syrup to dry ingredients.  Combine well.  Then flatten mixture into a 13"x9" rectangular pan using a nonstick cooking utensil.  (I use a rice paddle -- perfect!)  I actually do not fully cover the pan, achieving an 11"x9" or 12"x9" rectangle-shape instead.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Let the pan cool completely before using a sharp knife to cut into bars.  Makes about 12-15 bars.

I also tried fAnnetastic's no-bake granola bar recipe.  Mine didn't hold together -- it could have been because I used maple syrup and sun butter in place of brown rice syrup and peanut butter -- but the resulting granola hash is a really tasty breakfast cereal or yogurt companion.  I saw a lot of other healthy, not-overly-hard recipes on the fAnnetastic blog that piqued my interest.  I will definitely be back to the site to try out more!

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