I hate to admit it, but it has been a long winter in our house. Between cold snaps, dressing a non-compliant toddler, illness, and some wicked cold snaps, I relished days where I could pull a jar of sweet summer sunshine out of my freezer. I will let the picture speak for its metaphorical self.
But, we have persevered. And, thankfully, like a good mother hen, I really haven’t been the one who has been sick so I have been able to dutifully and lovingly care for my chickens. And, love them or hate them, Calgary has this eerie meteorological phenomenon called a Chinook. It induces headaches in some members of our household and it makes others run outside with glee and without toques. Like short reprieves, they warm you up and draw you out of your winter cocoon, while simultaneously making the next cold spell feel that much colder yet that much more tolerable because you know that there is another break around the corner. Rather manic, really. And, after last year’s spring starting in February (as my Facebook memories constantly remind me of my growing spinach around now this time last year…), this winter was appropriately winter-like, with lots of cold, snow, and cross-country skiing in town (because who needs to drive all the way to the mountains when you have this much snow out your back door!).
And, like a good mother hen, I have been keeping my chickens as well nourished as possible. Here is my latest and greatest concoction. I can’t take credit for the toasted quinoa and oats idea, but I can’t believe that I haven’t done it before! So worth the effort.
A few truths
I cannot lie: We like nuts in our house. We also have no known allergies (although I am not unfamiliar with them). They are a nutrient dense food that flesh out many of our meals and snacks, adding minerals, good fats, and calories.
I cannot lie: We are snackers. Bringing Up Bébé be damned, we don’t eat discrete meals – not with kids at these ages, nor due to how we are often out and about. That, combined with packing a nut-free school lunch, I am always on the look out for nut-free deliciousness and I am often disappointed, especially by the “substitute with sunflower butter” directions, leaving the baked good overwhelmingly sweet or rich or something that just makes me wanna gag. I quite like sunflower seeds, but can’t wrap my head around the buttered version, though.
As such, I am constantly seeking out a recipe that I can tolerate. I was at the bottom of my jar of sunflower butter and vowed that if this recipe didn’t work out that I was ditching sunflower butter and would start packing, I dunno, Lunchables since they’re nut-free and “safe” (albeit disgusting and not healthy). jk.
A tasty relief
I finally did it. There is still a hint of sunflower butter upon the first bite, but I swoon over the texture that it’s all worth it. I may play with the ratios of sweeteners and try a little bit less seed butter down the road to see if I can fully eliminate the taste of my nemesis. But, for now, these are seriously beyond great.
Obviously, these bars are a no-go if your kid’s school or classroom is nut- and seed-free. And, even more conspicious: These are beyond amazing with almond butter. There’s something about the flavour that is reminiscent of marshmallow-based rice krispie squares of yore, but more adult! Enjoy.
Toasted Yum Granola Bars
Makes a dozen or more 2.5″ x 1″ x 1″ bars
Time: 30 minutes
A lunchbox friendly snack that is sweet, chewy, and satisfying, not to mention nutrient dense.
Recipe by Lindsay Bliek
- 1/2 c rolled oats
- 1/2 c quinoa
- 1/4 c sunflower seeds
- 1/4 c pumpkin seeds
- 1 1/2 c crisp rice cereal
- 1/4 c flaxseed meal (ground flax)
- 1 T chia seeds
- 1/2 c raisins (or other dried fruit, cut into smaller pieces, if necessary)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 c sunflower butter (or nut butter of your choice)
- 1/3 c maple syrup
- 1/4 c brown rice syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- In batches, toast the rolled oats, quinoa (till it starts to pop a bit), sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Alternatively, you could do this in the oven at 325F for 8-10 minutes. I like to do it in my cast iron frying pan on the stovetop. It may seem finicky, but it’s totally worth it.
- Put all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix to combine.
- Put all wet ingredients into a medium sized pot on the stove over medium heat. Melt to combine, whisking together.
- Line an 8″ x 8″ (or similar-sized) pan with parchment.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until well combined. Then dump into the parchment-lined pan.
- Dampen your hands (not too wet!) and press the mixture in as firmly as you can. Then get a sturdy flat-bottomed glass (or similar) and press the mixture in more. Water is your friend if it’s too sticky. Try not to use too much but you could gently blot it dry afterwards.
- Optional: Melt about 1/3 c chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove. Spread over bars.
- Put in freezer for about 10 minutes, until set.
- Pull bars out by parchment paper, cut into desired sizes (I do them about 1″ wide and 2.5-3″ long). Store in an airtight container at room temp or in the fridge. I don’t think ours are going to last longer than a week so I can’t comment on shelf life!
I like to make these in the evening. It’s a silent project that doesn’t wake sleeping kids and the bars set up nicely overnight.
Brands do matter? Some of the time…
In my quest to find a sunflower butter that didn’t make me gag when I bake, I decided to switch brands. Normally, I buy the purist Nuts to You Nut Butter Inc. brand because I loooooovvve their simple ingredient lists and their almond butter. With crisp ambrosia, gala, or braeburn apple slices. Mmm. But, I saw the SunButter brand on sale and thought I’d try it. It must be the added sugar and salt, but the SunButter brand reminds me more of my childhood memories of eating Spitz than the Nuts to You one does.
So, if you’ve faced a similar problem to me, maybe trying this recipe will solve your problem and/or trying a new brand of seed butter.