Daily Archives: July 23, 2009
Like I said–Thursday is my day off, ergo, Thursday I blog like a madwoman.
In between odd-ending-up attempts at a faux-Clif-bar, I also tried the same author’s version of a Larabar.
Anyone who hasn’t tried Larabars yet–just, wow. They have about 3 or 4 ingredients, mostly just fruit and nuts and some spices, and they are yummy. They are also expensive. Partially, I’m guessing, because they are entirely fruit and nuts and don’t have any kind of cheap filler-y ingredients.
So again, here’s the original recipe I worked from:
Very Cherry Bars (use as a template for almost any combination)
LARA BARS use a multi-layer package that keeps out UV light and oxygen, which, in turn, maintains freshness without the use of preservatives. I use plain old plastic wrap and my refrigerator, then pop one in my bag when I’m ready to go.
1/4 cup chopped dates (roughly chopped whole dates, not pre-chopped)
1/4 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
1/3 cup whole pecans, almonds or walnuts
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Set out two pieces of plastic wrap for shaping and wrapping the bars. Do this first; you’ll have sticky fingers when you need it.
Place the dates and cherries in a food processor. Pulse until processed to a paste (photo 1). Transfer paste to a medium bowl (don’t clean processor).
Add the nuts to the processor and pulse until finely chopped (photo 2). Add the nuts, along with the cinnamon, to the bowl with the fruit paste (photo 3). Use your fingers to knead the nuts into the paste (just keep squishing, it’s fun; brings back memories of play-dough; see photo 4).
Divide mixture in half. Place each half on each of one of the sheets of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic around each bar and start squishing into a bar shape form, 3 and 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 3/4-inch thick); press against countertop to flatten bottom side, flattening top side and ends with flat of hand (photo 5) Tightly wrap the plastic around each bar and store in the refrigerator. Makes 2 bars.
Okay, this time I did not follow as diligently…but the results were good anyway! I tripled the recipe right off the bat, since I figured this kind of recipe probably couldn’t go too wrong, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to try anything like this again for a while. Also, I wasn’t paying enough attention to the directions when I assembled my ingredients, and I ended up pulsing the fruit and the nuts together in the food processor. It honestly didn’t seem to hurt the end result. (One less step is always an improvement in my book!) (EDIT: Today I learned, I think, why she wants us to do the nuts separately; I must have over-processed the nuts on one batch, because the bars came out VERY oily. So beware. The second batch, with almonds and less processing, were much more pleasant in that regard…)
The original author mentions that most recipes she sees people have way too many nuts and not enough fruit. I honestly think that even hers could use more fruit if it’s to be really like a Lara. But on the other hand, I’m fairly sure the real Larabars use raw nuts, and she suggests toasted ones (which I used), which I suspect gives a more “nutty” flavor in the end. (They really are good!)
The only unpleasant thing I discovered about these is that when you shape them into bars yourself, especially before wrapping them and squaring them off, they bear a close and unfortunate resemblance to dog poop. But only in appearance. :-)
I also chose to roll each bar in oat bran before wrapping them, which makes the outside a little less sticky.
So all in all, I’d say this recipe was a success. And by the way, the author also suggests that you don’t really need to make bars out of them per se, you can make little balls or truffle-things or rounds or whatever you want. These make good food-on-the-go…
p.s. this recipe also resembles one from the old Moosewood cookbook–the dessert one, I think–that had a recipe for “Nutty Fruit Nuggets”–I never made that recipe the way I was supposed to either, since I made it to take to a school function and we were required to be nut-free. I suspect my tactic–substituting a combination of oat bran and wheat germ for the nuts–would work equally well with these bars and actually cut some of the fat too.
I love Thursdays. As of September Friday will be my new day off, but for the moment Thursday is the day I don’t go to the office, I don’t stop in to do that one more little thing, I don’t obsess over my office email, I just Have The Day Off. Plus this is the last of 3 weeks when the kids are in summer camp all day on a Thursday, so I decided I wanted to make this one count. Spent the morning shopping and farmers-market-ing and the afternoon trying out recipes. You know, the kind of stuff that we can pretend is productive and useful and for the good of our families, but which we really just do because it’s FUN.
Yesterday posted that I’d found a very promising-looking recipe for homemade better-than-clif-type energy bars. Today, since it was my day off and I had the time, I tried making them. Below is the original recipe, which I actually (for a change!) followed diligently:
Homemade Cliff Bars (no bake!)
1 and 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal (e.g., Rice Krispies)
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed (flaxseed meal)
1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (preferably roasted or toasted) (I used pecans)
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (or honey, maple syrup, or light molasses) (I used maple/agave)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3 cup nut butter (e.g., peanut, almond, cashew, soynut) (I used almond)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine the rice cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl.
Bring the syrup and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in nut butter and vanilla until blended.
Pour nut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated (mixture will be stiff). Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of wax paper. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 12 bars. (Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator).
As fabulous as I think the author is, I did have some problems with the recipe. That it was too sweet was probably my fault; I got the organic brown rice cereal without realizing it was “lightly sweetened” (more so than I would have expected, too.) And I think because of the whole it-has-to-set thing, you can’t leave the brown sugar out, so that is sort of that.
But since I did follow it diligently, I was disappointed when the stuff wouldn’t set. There was just too much cereal and not enough goo, and what I got instead was a very nice sort of snack-granola-rice-krispie-treat thing that bore absolutely zero resemblance to a clif bar. (Which I don’t mind so much; I think they are vile. Which is why I was trying to come up with an alternative…)
The thing is, Clif bars as I remember them are basically sort of pasty mooshy goo, without many recognizable bits like rice cereal or rolled oats. So I tried a second batch, but this time I whirred the oats and rice cereal in the food processor before mixing them with the nut butter mixture. These were more successful, but they still didn’t set well enough to actually turn into slice-able bars when all was said and done. (I like the taste more, though!)
So…back to the drawing board, Iguess. Anyone who has any ideas or who has tried a recipe like this in the past, I’d welcome any advice! Energy bars are so crazy-expensive, I’d love a better way to get good results!
You may recall a past entry in which I followed someone else’s recipe for making one’s own dreamsicles, only to find that my misgivings upon reading it were well-founded, and I realized I’d just made my kids some slightly vanilla-flavored orange juice popsicles.
So today I tried again. Much better, and very easy.
- Whisk 6oz cup vanilla yogurt (fat content up to you!) till creamy.
- Whisk in 6 oz. orange juice; drizzle in as you go and it won’t lump.
- Add 1 tbs. maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey (opt–it’s actually really nice without!) and a little vanilla extract (also opt!) and stir well
- Pour into popsicle molds, dixie cups with sticks, or whatever makeshift ice pop method you prefer.
- Freeze and eat.
I admit that I can taste the telltale yogurt tang in there that’s a dead giveaway. (Bad greenmom I; I never have managed to love yogurt and have developed many ways to disguise it because I know it’s good for me.) But aside from that, this is really close to my memories of the grade school dreamsicle…
Today I checked out the next farmers market on my list, the one in Burr Ridge. Like everything in Burr Ridge, it was very elegant, very classy, and very expensive; only two booths in the whole thing actually had produce. (The baking nuns were there, though…I got a lovely loaf of wheat bread from them…)
I also visited The Farm, a produce stand run by a large farm just a few miles away in Plainfield–in general, their food was much more reasonably priced, and they are only a few minutes away from our house, so that will probably be our primary place for the balance of the summer. Their sweet corn is in, and it looks lovely…
Then there was the local Dominicks, where I needed to stop to get some toothpaste…and where I saw apples advertised proudly as being “locally grown”–until one examined them more closely and discovered that they were actually grown in Washington. State. In what twisted brain is the Pacific Northwest “local” to Chicago?