Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Week 8: Whole Grain Breakfast Bars

How many of you skip breakfast most mornings? Or go for the quick bowl of cereal or piece of toast? Mornings are a rushed time, trying to prepare for work or children for school, and unless you subscribe to the 1950’s model of meal preparation and serve a piping hot breakfast, you don’t have the time to make, let alone eat, a substantial meal. (And my guess is that if you have children, they don’t have the time either.)

When my children were school-aged, I often cooked food on Sunday for the week. Sometimes this would include a coffeecake, muffins, or scones that could be eaten on the fly but be substantial enough (with whole grains, fruit, and/or nuts) to satisfy everyone until lunchtime came around. Over the last year I have taken to making granola bars, of which you can whip up in 20 minutes and makes 20 full-sized bars. I like these because the varieties are endless. By using different kinds of nuts and dried fruit—or even mini chocolate chips—you can tailor the recipe to your liking. (My most recent version was tropical in flavor, with coconut, dried pineapple/apricot/mango with pecans and almonds.) But a new recipe is threatening to dethrone my granola bars.

Whole Grain Breakfast Bars are similar in nature to NutriGrain Bars, take only 15 minutes to prepare and make 9 squares that are similar in calories, low in fat and sodium, with 4 grams of protein and fiber. The original recipe called for raspberries, but I have found that blueberries and blackberries work just as well. I can make these over the weekend, cut them into squares and wrap each in wax paper or plastic wrap, ready to be grabbed on the go. So with a little bit of planning and minimum effort, you can have a healthy, tasty, lower cost breakfast bar to enjoy all week long.

Whole Grain Breakfast Bars
6 ounces blueberries, raspberries or blackberries (or combination)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups oats (regular or quick)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 9-inch square pan.

Combine berries, granulated sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until boiling. Lower heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for several minutes until sauce is thick and translucent. Remove from heat to cool.

Prepare base by combining oats, flour, sugar, nuts, wheat germ and cinnamon in a food processor until oats and nuts are ground. Combine the oil and egg and add to this mixture using the pulse feature, until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl once or twice to ensure all ingredients become moist.

Press half of the base mixture into the prepared pan, tamping down with your fingers or the bottom of a glass. Spread the berry filling evenly over the base. Top with the remaining base mixture, pressing down firmly. (Don’t get overzealous here, you do not want the filling to ooze up over the topping.)

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and cut into 9 squares.

Yield: 9

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