Quaker's Chewy granola bars are the best, aren't they? I have eaten tons of them in my time. I always brought the variety pack, but the plain old chocolate chip ones were my favorites. These bars have always seemed like a good, healthy snack option, so there were several years in which I did not leave the house without one in my purse.
But even though Quaker claims on its product site that these are "a tasty option for your active family," the long and involved ingredient list suggests otherwise:
"IngredientsGRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, BROWNSUGAR, CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT],WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED COCONUT, WHOLE WHEATFLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SOY LECITHIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NONFAT DRYMILK), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOABUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT), CORN SYRUP, BROWN RICE CRISP(WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE, SUGAR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, SALT), INVERTSUGAR, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, GLYCERIN, SOYBEAN OIL. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SORBITOL,CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, WATER, SOY LECITHIN, MOLASSES, NATURAL ANDARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), CITRIC ACID."
Ok, I admit, it's not as bad as some other processed snacks out there, but there's still a lot of stuff I'm not interested in, like sorbitol, calcium carbonate, and BHT. We can totally do better.
This recipe I found on Tracey's Culinary Adventures is a great copycat without all the icky preservatives. The flavor is spot on. My only criticism of the original recipe is that the honey made the bars a bit too gooey. Mine fell to pieces whenever I picked one up. In later batches, I subbed in brown rice syrup which creates a much firmer texture. If you hold one of the bars horizontally in the air, it will still start to sag, but it retains its integrity a lot longer than the versions I made with honey, making for a much better portable snack.
Granola bars have become the staple snack in our house, so I've been trying out lots of recipes lately. This doesn't come in as the healthiest of the bunch (not with half a stick of butter! - my vegan pumpkin-apple granola bars are at the top of the health chart), but these crunchy, chewy bars are high on the yummy list. It's a good thing they're quick to make, because they don't last very long around here!
Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Adapted from Tracey's Culinary Adventures.
2 c instant oats (Tracey's recipe says that rolled oats should not be used - I tried a batch with them and thought they were fine, however it was the instant oats version that got Jeff to stop in his tracks and exclaim that they looked like "real" Chewy bars!)
1 c crispy rice cereal (I use Whole Foods' organic brown rice crisps - the only three ingredients are brown rice, cane syrup and salt)
1/3 c light brown sugar
1/4 c brown rice syrup
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp mini chocolate chips (the only processed-sounding ingredient in my recipe is in here: soy lecithin)
Line an 8 x 8" baking dish with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on each side. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, combine the oats and rice cereal.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. When nearly melted, add the sugar and brown rice syrup. Stir well to combine and dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low for about 1 minute, still stirring. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
Pour the wet mixture onto the dry mixture and stir well to moisten everything.
Transfer to the prepared pan, pressing the mixture down firmly with a spatula and evening out the thickness. (Compressing the bars with the spatula will keep them from falling apart as much later, particularly when you're cutting them.)
Scatter the chocolate chips evenly across the top. Compress the top with your spatula one last time, so that the chips are firmly embedded within the mixture.
Set the pan aside to set for at least 2 hours. Then use the parchment overhang to remove the bars from the pan, slice them and store them in a tupperware at room temperature. (You can individually wrap them, but I saw no need, since we eat most of ours at home. I haven't had problems with the bars sticking together in the container either.)