DOUBLE CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY AND OAT ENERGY BARS … healthy & delish!!

“If you don’t quit, you will succeed by accident as long as you keep going.”
Diane Walker

I’m always in the mood for fruit in baking, energy bars, snacks with healthy oats in them, healthy stuff, cutting back on butter etc. If I take care of a few good thngs on the snacky level, then dessert doesn’t seem so calorific after all. Doing the balancing act as a food blogger is never easy as there’s so much eye candy out there to tempt you!
But with every down side comes the upside, and that’s just what I found when I read Megan’s post @ Megan’s Cooking the other day, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Snack Bars. They grabbed my attention since I’m always on the lookout for healthy snack bars as the boy goes to train for soccer, and I think oats offer goodness in every bite! The bars reminded me of these Thick Chewy Granola Bars, and there was something about Megan’s recipe that got me to get up and make them immediately. I’m glad I did!
There was a time when most baking was done with all purpose flour. One of the easiest flours to use, it always gives consistently good results. The biggest drawback of using refined flour is as the name suggests, it is ‘refined’ so it lacks nutritional benefit. A diet based on white flour products tends to be deficient in a number of essential nutrients, primarily the ‘B-complex’ vitamins. It also is linked to weight gain and insulin problems.

The winds of change are slowly sweeping the culinary world, and there is a paradigm shift to the use of ‘Alternative Flours’. Though you might not find much variety in India, some substitution is always possible. I have increasingly begun trying to substitute a part of the regular flour in recipes with flours like buckwheat flour (kuttu ka aata), whole wheat flour (aata), or then with rolled or powdered oats. (Fab India stocks buckwheat flour in season, and in North India it is available in almost every corner shop during the fasting season.)

I experimented with Megan’s recipe, and make this almost every week now. It makes for a great snack, and keeps well in the fridge in an airtight box. I have played around with the plain flour in the original recipe, and in case you don’t find buckwheat flour, you can always substitute it for whole wheat flour. I like the health benefits of the recipe a lot, as also the fact that it uses just ¼ cup of oil and no butter! Despite this, it’s a very delicious bar and does well in the kids snack boxes. If you’d like to cut out calories, then go ahead and skip the conserve and chocolate, which is how the original recipe is.

Double Chocolate Strawberry & Oat Energy Bars
Adapted from Megan’s Cooking

1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated vanilla/white sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons skim milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (I use Quaker)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup strawberry conserve, melted
50gms dark chocolate, melted

Method:
Pre heat oven to 180C.

Line a 7 X 11 X 2 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Grease lightly.
In a large bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, vanilla/white granulated sugar, egg, milk, vanilla and salt. Beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the sugars have dissolved.
In a separate bowl, combine oats, all flours, baking soda and chocolate chips. Stir until combined. Add to liquid mixture and mix well. Transfer to the prepared tin and spread uniformly. You can bake as is at this point, or spread a 1/4 cup of melted preserves on top with an offset spatula/butter knife and then bake.
Bake 15-20 minutes until golden.Remove from oven and spread the melted chocolate over it and allow to cool until firm. 
Once cool, chill for about an hour for the chocolate to set. Cut into bars/ squares and store tightly covered. Refrigerate if the weather is warm because the chocolate will melt. These bars keep well in an airtight box in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
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Thick, Chewy Granola Bars … you left us smitten!

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A visit to Smitten Kitten always leaves me enamoured and charmed. Deb’s always got something that holds my attention. It’s often simple comfort food. Beautiful brownies, awesome cakes, or then something as simple as these thick, chewy granola bars. The beauty of her posts is the passion she does them with. She bakes from scratch, her commentary is engaging, and her posts have brilliant photographs. These granola bars, adapted from King Arthur Flour, had her readers, including me, quite smitten. For me, the bars scored a 10/10 in every aspect – health, taste, looks, versatility. Above all they were kid friendly too… very Ten in 10!

I had to make them soon because I identified with the immense possibilities and substitutions at every level that Deb offered. If you didn’t have this, then you could use that, that, or that. The recipe below is what I did with what was available in my larder. Do check Deb’s post for more  options! Almost everything was optional, and the recipe can be tailored to suit individual tastes. How often do you find something so good?

In her words … This is probably the most flexible recipe I’ve posted. When it comes to granola, what you’re looking for is a basic proportion of chunky (nuts, dried fruit) to sticky (syrups, sugar, butter or oils) and from there, you can really go to town. The vanilla is optional. The cinnamon is optional. You can use no dried fruit or you can use all dried fruit in your 2 to 3 cup mix. You can toss in things like puffed rice cereal or flax seeds. In the comments, I’d love to hear what mix you came up with and how you liked it. I can only imagine the possibilities.

I loved how the bars came out. Made a couple of errors, the primary one getting anxious to see how they baked and urging them to jump out of the tin while very warm. I put them right back instantly realising my folly, and saved the bars. They won’t stick to the paper, so leave them be. Let them sit for at least 20 minutes, and then if you still want to, take them out, lining paper and all, let them cool on the rack. Cut them up only when they are cold. They behave beautifully!
I also added something that the kids didn’t take to very well. I read someone had sprinkled sea salt on top, and I was very taken in by the idea. So I added a light sprinkling of sea salt on top. While it was a good idea for adults, the kids became very iffy about it. It seemed to take the snack monster joy away from them. I really should have experimented with just a 1/4 or 1/2 surface wth the sprinkling. 
Thought hard as I didn’t want the kids to have these bars sans enjoyment. Suddenly, I had a flash of brilliance … chocolate would bring the mojo back! Chocolate makes everything better and I just knew it would fix this problem too. Woohoo… it sure did. I coated the sea salt topped bars with melted dark chocolate, and let it set in the fridge for a bit. I won the kids back! They were smitten!

Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
Recipe minimally adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Of note: The original recipe calls for something called “sticky bun sugar” which can be made at home with sugar, butter and corn syrup. It is for this reason that corn syrup is listed within one ingredient but also separately, and I used all butter rather than two different fats. Whether the corn syrup can be entirely replaced with honey or maple syrup or the butter can be entirely replaced with a healthier oil is worth auditioning, I just didn’t. Yet. I can tell you this: as is, this is the best granola bar I’ve ever eaten.

Ingredients:
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts
1/3 cup peanut butter
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (see note above)
1 tablespoon water

Method:

Preheat the oven to180°C. Line an 7″ x 11″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter, syrup or honey, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on them. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked in the center when you take them out but do not worry, they’ll set completely once they cool.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way.)
Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.
Suggestions: Dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried pples or even chocolate chips. My mix: 1/2 cup wheat germ, 1 cup dried cherries, 1 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup pecans and 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes.
 

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Just a quick reminder about our special BloggerAid initiative for Haiti

H2Ope for Haiti raffle is open until Sunday March 7th. A huge thank you to all who have already purchased their tickets to win any of the fabulous prizes donated such as an i-Pod Shuffle, artwork, autographed cookbooks from authors such as David Lebovitz, and so much more!!!!. We appreciate your generous contribution. A list of prizes is available on the here.

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Chocolate chip, Cranberry & Walnut Sconies (Scones+Cookies=Sconies) … we l♥v them!

“Sometimes me think what is love, and then me think love is what last cookie is for.
Me give up the last cookie for you.”
Cookie Monster
I love making cookies, and I love making scones. This time I decided to combine my love forthe two, using a recipe I turn to often. It’s one I use from  Romney Steels cookbook My Nepenthe that was reviewed on Heidi’s beautiful blog 101 Cookbooks. These are the best I’ve ever made, and oh-so-accomodative. What I like about them is the ease with which the recipe embraces different ingredients. Had posted the scones over Christmas ‘Orange & Oat Scones‘. My nephew who was visiting then, quite the fussy eater, loved them! Each time I make these, I think of him!
This time I tried making them into sconey cookies. Rolled them out thinner than scones and baked them a bit longer. Got me nice sconies, packed with yummy chocolate, walnuts and cranberries in every bite, crisp from the outside, ever so slightly chewy from the inside. The daughter who is also now a little fussy especially when it comes to oats and walnuts, asked me to make them again. BOW SCRAPE … did I feel honoured or what? 
They really are NICE! 2 batches later, I’m here to post them. I cut out a few hearts too, so it seems the right time to blog about them! In any case, I ♥ healthy cookies, and it gives me pure joy to see the kids enjoy these so. I got about 3 dozen cookies from the cookie dough. The recipe is simple enough for kids to make as well. It’s a great kitchen activity with little ones, and fun to see the things they want to add to the basic dough.
These sconies have a generous helping of oats. Play around with the other ingredients as you like. I love zesting some fresh orange peel into the flour. I think pistachios, dried apricots and chocolate, maybe white too, will taste pretty yummy in there. I’ve done a walnut, crystallised ginger and chocolate chip version in the past with great results. I find that these make great gifts too!

Chocolate chip, Cranberry & Walnut Sconies (Scones+Cookies=Sconies)
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks adaptation from My Nepenthe by Romney Steele
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour (or whole wheat pastry flour if available)
1/3 cup vanilla sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cups rolled oats
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup coarse vanilla or demerara sugar, for sprinkling
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, 1/2 cup of vanilla sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse 15-20 times or until it looks like sandy pearls. Transfer the dough to a bowl and stir in the oats, cranberries, walnuts, chocolate chips and zest.
Stir in the buttermilk until just moistened. Bring the dough together with your hands. If the dough is still too crumbly, stir in more buttermilk a tiny splash at a time, but try to avoid over mixing.
After bringing the dough together, gently divide into 2, and roll out about 1/2 inch thick. Cut shapes if you like, or pat it into an 8-inch round. Cut into triangle shapes if you are patting the dough into a circle. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet with some room between each scone. Sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottoms are deeply golden.
Cool completely on racks.
Makes 2 1/2 – 3 dozen 2.5″ hearts
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