Thursday, February 18, 2010

Peanut Butter & Jelly bars

After the first try with food bars was such a great success, we decided that a variation was in order: peanut butter and jelly bars. So, I went about deciding what to replace here and there, baked them up, put chocolate over half, and........... it was gross. Well, gross compared to what I had hoped, not plain gross. Just not good. It tasted like a power bar. Ok, filling, definitely food-like, but not right. There wasn't much fruit flavor (I had used plums) or peanut butter flavor, and the peanuts had turned soft. Once we made it through most of those (I think one or two got too old first, that should tell you how bad they were) we decided to try again.

I had been thinking since the first bite of the bad batch that there had to be a better way.
The first trick seemed to be keeping the peanut halves crunchy.
Solution: Don't bake it.
The second was to make the fruit flavor hold its own.
Solution: More fruit with a stronger flavor.
The third was to find a recipe that I could adapt instead of starting from scratch.
Solution: here. The first time I made just a half-batch, since I was reeling from the terrible first attempt, but they went before I even snapped a picture!

Just like the food bars, the nutrition info on these is surprisingly similar to the pre-made bars you can buy. These are a tiny bit higher in fat, but as they cost less and have no chemically taste (especially if you use wheat germ) I am perfectly ok with that.

The second batch was easier to mix, but doesn't hold together quite as well, so I have adjusted the proportions a bit. Both of those were with craisins. For the third batch, I decided to go with dried apricots (what I had on hand) and it was really good, too, but certainly has less of a fruity taste. The apricot flavor got stronger over a few days, but who wants to wait? The craisins were great and tasted good and properly fruity, not too tart at all. Either way, I kept them in the fridge to encourage them to stick together and to make them last longer. I know I took pictures of the ones with cranberries, but here is the unpressed mound of apricot bars until I find it.

Peanut butter and Jelly bars
Serves: 6-8 Time to make: about 20 minutes, then let cool

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup good peanut butter (like just peanuts, or peanuts & salt)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 3/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup whey protein powder or toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup roughly chopped peanuts (or halves)
1 cup dried apricots (roughly chopped) or dried cranberries

- Coat a square 8x8 pan with cooking spray
- (You can wait to do this until the liquids are heating if you're quick) Combine last four ingredients (oats through dried fruit) in a medium bowl and stir
- In a small saucepan, heat honey, peanut butter, maple syrup and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to boil
- Remove from heat, add vanilla, stir until blended, and pour over dry mixture
- Mix until all of the ingredients are wet, pour into 8x8 pan and press down FIRMLY until it is all flat (you may want to use plastic wrap, tinfoil, or parchment paper so your hands don't get sticky)
- Chill in the fridge at least 2 hours. Once chilled, cut into 16 bars (I make mine long skinny ones)

Nutrition info (for 1/16th recipe with toasted wheat germ and apricots): Cal - 194 Fat - 7.5g Carbs - 27.3g Protein - 6.4g

I can't find a good set of nutrition facts for the protein powder, but it's lower in fat than wheat germ and (duh) much higher in protein, so you will have a slightly different balance there.

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Try this and want to share how it went? Have questions before you try it? Let me know!