Oat Innovations: Smoked Paprika Granola Bars

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
Parchment paper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Put the granola bars back in the oven for 4 minutes, then remove and set on a cooling rack until completely cooled before cutting.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Sweet & Spicy Pecans

Our Miracle has arrived, and we adore our sweet little hound! Miracle was anxious for only about the first hour after arriving, then grabbed a toy, whipped her tail around in windmill fashion with utter joy and decided that she was HOME. Maybe Turbo was whispering in her ear that she was going to be happy here – I wouldn’t put it past him – he seems to have blessed Miracle’s joining our family from the first moment.

Miracle may be a tiny hound, but she’s got a big personality that is just starting to unfold. She’s a lovey hound who rolls onto her back to demand belly rubs from anyone nearby. A bit of a clown, too… She relishes in playing with her toys and is not above “discovering” new ones that are just as fun as stuffies – be it a cell phone, hat, bra, or fishing in the bathroom trash for a TP roll…life is FUN, and she is exploring every bit of it.

However, our little lady is not pleased when left alone…this week is the first time in her life when she’s been by herself, with no other neighbor-hounds in the kennel and it’s a definite shock. So, with the help of our wonderful “adoption counselor” from Greyhounds Only, Sue, we’re working through her separation anxiety to help her fully embrace her new life…and once she does – she’ll be free of that crate she so detests right now.

While we’re busy house-training the dog, it seems only fitting to fortify ourselves with some protein-rich snacks for those cold, hour-long walks trying to convince Miracle to pee outside. These sweet and spicy nuts are an addictive snack, far better than those overly-sweet cinnamon almonds you might get at a fair. Our friends Bill & Colleen gifted us with a bag of their cinnamon pecans when we were visiting them in Florida in November. We were hooked. Then, I discovered Shauna’s recipe in her new cookbook, and tried those as well. I liked both recipes, so split the difference for my own take on Shauna’s nuts – not quite as much sugar and egg white, and a tiny hit of smoked paprika for a little mystery.

I liked this recipe so well, I made up a few batches and gave them to all of our family as Christmas gifts. The day after Christmas, I received a message from my brother-in-law stating that: “There’s something wrong with the jar of nuts you gave me. I keep reaching my hand in, and nothing comes out.” If you make either of these spiced nuts, be warned that you may quickly have Brad’s empty jar problem – they are addicting!

What’s your favorite snack – nutty or otherwise? Share you favorite noshes in the comments section below…

Bill & Colleen’s Cinnamon Pecans

1 egg white
1 tsp water
½ cup sugar
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
5 cups pecan halves (almonds work well, too)

  1. Preheat oven to 250º. Combine sugar, pepper, nutmeg, salt & cinnamon together in a small bowl.
  2. Beat egg white with water in a large mixing bowl. Add pecans/almonds to egg white and mix.
  3. Add sugar mixture to pecans. Stir well. Spread on large buttered pan.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, cool thoroughly & store in an airtight container…maybe even on a high shelf to keep from eating the whole jar at once.

Sweet and Smoky Pecans & Almonds
Adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef cookbook
1 egg white
1 tsp water
½ cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne
5 cups mixed pecan halves & almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 250º. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, pepper, paprika and cayenne together in a small bowl.
  2. Beat egg white with water in a large mixing bowl. Add pecans/almonds to egg white and mix.
  3. Add sugar mixture to pecans. Stir well. Spread on large buttered pan.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, cool thoroughly & store in an airtight container…maybe even on a high shelf to keep from eating the whole jar at once.

Chile Rubbed Sirloin Tip Roast

As with so many good things that have come into my kitchen recently, the initial inspiration for this one comes from Shauna, aka Gluten-Free Girl. She posted to twitter how much she loved Thomas Keller’s new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. I mentioned that I had just received my copy and she then convinced me in 140 characters that I needed to make his lentil and sweet potato soup. Which I did. And it is stellar.

Cooking with Thomas Keller requires far more precision than I’m used to. I cook by instinct and impulse, making a mess across the kitchen as I go. Thomas urges you to slow down, prep and cook precisely…this is a meditative practice I can definitely use. Cooking his soup took the better part of a morning, requiring much tending and fussing, but the end product is a composed soup where every element is showcased in each spoonful. It’s an incredible thing. But, this post is not (supposed) to be about soup. I set out here to tell you about the amazing roast you see above.

I had a sirloin tip roast from our farm share that had been thawing in the fridge all week awaiting Sunday dinner. The traditional roast beef is not really my cup of tea, which might seem odd considering my love of beef and lamb stews of all varieties, buy hey – we’re all entitled to our culinary quirks, right?! Knowing how incredible the meat from our farm share is, I did want to do right by the roast, and cook it properly.

Searching around the web, I had a hard time coming up with cooking instructions for this particular type of roast. It’s a very lean cut, so I knew that a slow braise was not going to be the best use of this beauty. Stumped, I gave up and curled up on the couch with Thomas’ mammoth cookbook and set to reading, cup of tea in hand. Turning to the meat section – there it was! Thomas explained what I didn’t know…that a sirloin tip roast is also called a “tri-tip.” He outlined his preferred method of cooking the roast…which is the basis for this recipe, though I’ve streamlined a few steps, changed direction in the flavor profile to a slightly earthy, quasi-Mexican combination and added some aromatics for the basis of a simple pan sauce to spoon over the sliced meat.

The finished roast was a perfect medium-rare, sliced like butter and wonderfully tender. I think Thomas would approve.

Sirloin Tip Roast
Serves: a crowd

2 sprigs rosemary
3 cloves garlic, divided
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
red wine
1 1/2 T ancho chile powder
1 1/2 T smoked paprika
grapeseed oil for searing

1 sprig rosemary
5 thin slices of lemon
1 leek, green ends trimmed off, and sliced in half lengthwise
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 tsp kosher salt

For pan sauce:
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup red wine
1 T butter
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt

  1. The day before you plan to cook the roast, combine the smoked paprika and ancho chile powder in a small bowl and set aside. Mince 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 cloves of garlic, and set aside.
  2. Remove the roast from the fridge, and pat dry. Look closely at the roast – if you’re using a sirloin tip, there will be a few veins of silverskin throughout the roast. With luck, you should be able to slide your knife in next to the first vein of silverskin and butterfly the roast, opening one flap. Gently pushing your knife underneath the silverskin, trim it out. Look for the next vein of silverskin and again slide your knife under, continuing to open the roast like a book and trim out the silverskin. Continue trimming out the roast until all the silverskin has been removed.
  3. Sprinkle the minced rosemary and garlic on the inside of the roast, then roll the roast up into a tight log. Take your kitchen twine, and tie the roast up, encircling the roast with knotted twine every two inches. Once the roast is tied, take the chile mixture (reserve about a tablespoon of the chile mixture for the next day), and sprinkle it over the roast, patting it into the meat. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic wrap and stash in the fridge overnight.
  4. Cooking the roast: Remove the roast 1 1/2 hours before you plan to cook it so that it comes to room temperature. Remove the plastic wrap and pat it dry with paper towel. Combine the reserved chile mixture with 1 tsp of kosher salt and rub it into the outside of the roast. Let the roast sit for an hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Take out a roasting pan (or quarter sheet pan like I used). Pile the diced aromatics into the middle of the pan – carrots, onion, lemon slices, 1 rosemary sprig, celery and one clove of smashed garlic. Add 1/4 tsp kosher salt sprinkled on top. Take the halved leek, and set it at the ends of the pile of veggies to create a roasting stand for the beef to sit on while it roasts.
  6. Searing the roast: Heat a large stainless steel skillet over medium heat to get it scorching hot. Add some oil to the pan to coat the bottom, then gently place the meat in the pan. Sear for 2 minutes on each side, then place the roast on top of the aromatics and roast in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees (for a medium-rare roast). Once the roast reaches temperature, remove the roast from the oven and place on a carving board and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let the meat rest for 25 minutes before carving.
  7. While the meat rests, make the pan sauce. Place the sheet pan with the aromatics over a burner turned to medium. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock and 1/3 cup red wine. Bring to a boil, stirring the aromatics. Reduce the liquids by half, then place a strainer over a small saucepan and pour the pan sauce and aromatics into the strainer. Press on the aromatics with a spoon to get drain all of the liquid into the pan. Place the pan back on the heat and bring to a boil. Add 1 T butter, and stir to melt the butter. Turn the burner off, leaving the pan on the burner until the meat is carved, then spoon the sauce over the sliced meat.