Hey everyone, sorry for the long absence from the blog…the new gig (which I LOVE) has been all-consuming. I’ve got a few half-written posts sitting in the hopper, but I have to jump the queue to bring you this latest iteration of my granola bars. It seems appropriate to cover some new ground in my ongoing love affair with the humble oat. We eat a lot of them in our house between baked oatmeal, my classic steel cut oats and the daily granola bar snack. If you’re a daring sort and like your sweets and treats a little on the wild side, you’ll have to give these a try.
I’m spending much of my new professional life thinking about oats with Quaker as one of my clients. As a self-proclaimed oat-obsessed nutrition nerd, I’m thrilled to be working on such a well-respected brand – who doesn’t trust the Quaker Oats man?! For my first foray into the wide world of oats, I’ll be attending BlogHer Food conference next weekend! If you’ll be there, stop on by the booth to say hello, enter the fabulous giveaway, and tell me all about your oat inspirations. It feels like a dream come true to spend a weekend talking with food bloggers about oats!
As I was mixing up a batch of my typical granola bars this morning, my eyes wandered to the jar of pecans. My mind drifted to memories of those delicious smoked paprika-laced candied pecans that I gifted to the whole family over the holidays…as I stood there, I wondered if that same flavor combination would work in a granola bar. I couldn’t help myself, so even though I already had a pan of cocoa and ginger granola bars cooling, I whipped up a batch of these bars. I love them – and I hope you will too.
The bars have the sweetness of a typical granola bar and a touch of cinnamon – nothing unusual there…but the kiss of smoked paprika and hint of heat from cayenne and black pepper make these bars pretty addicting. The way I figure it – eating a granola bar or two is still going to be healthier than demolishing a couple handfuls of candied pecans.
And in other non-oat news, Mark and I ran the Indy half-marathon last weekend, and had a blast! We had a big group from Chicago caravan out for the race, and met up with some of my favorite American Cancer Society runners back at the tent after the race…I love the camaraderie of race day and comparing notes on the race. I had my BEST RACE EVER, clocking in a smoking 18 minute PR (personal record) with a 2:03 finish (9:22/mi avg pace)! I felt great the entire race, and if anything, I probably could have pushed it a bit more. And Mark ran his first half-marathon and is already itching to try another…my husband is a runner now – and I could not be happier!
What’s your favorite way to mix it up with oats? Share your oat inspirations in the comment section below…
Smoked Paprika Sweet & Spicy Granola Bars
Makes 30-35, 3×3″ bars
5 cups gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup chopped raw pecans
½ cup blanched slivered almonds
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup creamy, unsweetened almond butter
1/3 c honey
1/3 c brown rice syrup (available at Whole Foods – or use maple syrup or all honey)
4 T butter
½ T smoked paprika
½ T cinnamon
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 T vanilla extract
1 tsp Kosher salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix the nuts and oats on a full sheet pan. Toast the nuts and oats in the oven for 10 minutes, stir, then bake for another 10 minutes and remove from oven and pour the oat mixture into a large mixing bowl. Leave the oven on at 350 – you’ll need it later.
- During the last 10 minutes of oat baking, combine the brown sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, almond butter, smoked paprika, cayenne, black pepper, butter, and salt into a small nonstick sauce pan over medium-low heat, stirring with a spatula until it all melts and is well incorporated with no almond butter lumps. Add the vanilla, stir and turn off the heat.
- Cut two pieces of parchment paper. The first piece of parchment should be large enough to cover the whole sheet pan, including folding up the sides of the pan. Cut a second smaller piece, just large enough for you to use to cover 1/4 of the bars as you press them firmly into the pan, so you don’t burn your hands, or stick to the oats.
- Pour half of the hot “glue” over the toasted oats and nuts in your mixing bowl and use a spatula to stir it all together, coating the oats evenly in the sweet goo. Pour the remaining glue over the mixture and continue to stir until everything is nicely coated.
- Place the large sheet of parchment paper over the sheet pan covering the entire bottom with overlap for the sides, then scoop the sticky oat mixture onto the pan. Use your spatula to smooth it out into a more-or-less even layer covering the whole pan. Next, take the second, smaller sheet of parchment and use it to cover part of the pan as you use your hands to firmly press the bars together into a tightly packed, even layer.
- Put the granola bars back in the oven for 4 minutes, then remove and set on a cooling rack until completely cooled before cutting.
- Cutting the bars: Pick up the whole pan of bars by the ends of the parchment, and turn upside down on a large cutting board. Peel the parchment away, and reserve, cutting the sheet into smaller pieces to lay between layers of bars in a large storage container or ziploc bag, to keep them from sticking.
- Use a large chef’s knife and firmly press down with the knife with a gentle rocking motion (do not saw at the bars), and cut your granola into whatever size bars you’d like. I usually get 5 rows of bars across the pan lengthwise, 7-8 bars per row. I also like to cut one row of the bars into two-bite super mini bars for smaller snacking size.
- Layer the bars in a large storage container, and slip pieces of the parchment between layers. Store on your countertop or in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks, though I doubt they’ll last that long. I keep ours in the fridge, just to keep my hand out of the container every time I walk into the kitchen!
148 cal per bar, 50 cal from fat, 7g fat, 55mg sodium, 15mg potassium, 17g carbs, 2g fiber, 5g sugars, 4g proteins