Monday, January 18, 2010

Nutty for Oats

I've been working on another comfort dish (South Beach inspired Shepherd's Pie) but it's become a problem child at the moment and needs another test run. So in the meantime I thought I'd share a sweet new find with you.

It's a Giada recipe for Peanut Butter Granola Bars from the food network web site. I love that site because, as I've mentioned before, home cooks and enthusiasts offer helpful hints to improve the dish if there seems to be a problem. It's always amazing to me how some recipes get posted in the first place, but looking on the bright side, the comments work for me. Hey- I always like to know the good, the bad and the ugly before I try a recipe for the first time.

So here we go. First off, this is an easy recipe. You probably have all the ingredients on hand. Giada makes her bars in a 7 x 10 inch pan. I don't have one and used the old faithful 8 x 8 inch disposable aluminum. She also lines her pan with parchment paper. I don't since I'm using the flexible aluminum. The biggest problem the commenters/reviewers had was that the bars kept crumbling. The general consensus was that the one stick of butter recommended was too much. Baking time was an issue too. But all ovens are different and I watched mine very closely the first time. I also added an additional egg white to the mixture and can't remember why I did that. Maybe it was to prevent crumbling as well. Giada uses toasted slivered almonds . They were delicious in my recipe, but I have a huge jar of dry roasted peanuts in my freezer that I used on my second go-round. Equally as good and I didn't have to toast them. She also uses brown sugar, but I wanted to stick with zero calorie Splenda, so I used white. I'm sure it's better with the brown. The recipe calls for 2 cups of old fashioned oats. With the first batch I made, I used the oats directly from the container. With the second batch, I ground half the oats in my spice grinder and the end result was a lighter, less dense bar. It depends how oaty and earthy you feel at the time. Either way they were good.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

Vegetable cooking spray
1/2 stick butter
2 egg whites
1/2 cup peanut butter - I used creamy, Giada used chunky
1/3 cup brown sugar - I used white Splenda
1/4 cup honey
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup crushed dry roasted peanuts- I crush them between 2 sheets of plastic wrap with a heavy pan (they still fly all over the place)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Prep pan with vegetable spray. Melt butter and set aside to cool. In large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Mix in peanut butter, sugar and honey. Tip: spray measuring cups with veg spray before measuring peanut butter and honey and they'll slide right out of the cups. Add the butter and mix. You'll have a very smooth mixture at this point. Add the oats, peanuts and chocolate chips. Stir to combine. Spread into prepared pan. Bake on middle rack in oven 20 minutes (that worked for me) until edges begin to browm. Let cool at least one hour before slicing. I cut my bars into 12 pieces (4 x 3), not quite square.

Re-Mix: Whenever I find a good recipe with peanut butter I try it using Nutella. You'll need to change the amount of sugar. I used 2 T of sugar instead of the 1/4 cup. You'll also want to sift 1/4 cup of baking cocoa into the Nutella, honey, sugar and butter mixture and incorporate well. I didn't add any nuts, but kept in the mini chocolate chips. These were pretty rich, and not as healthy as the others. And gooier. Much gooier.

Back to healthy-My next re-mix of these bars will be to eliminate the chocolate chips and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and either raisins or dried apricots to the peanut butter mixture. I haven't tried this yet, but when I do, there'll be an update on the results.

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