For the last several years I have been a regular consumer of pre-packaged “energy bars” like Clif, Luna, Balance, etc. Not being in the least a morning person, I would often find myself rushing out the door in the morning without having had the time for breakfast. But I’m not one of those people who can just skip breakfast either; I usually wake up pretty hungry. I always kept a stash of these energy bars on hand for those rushed mornings when breakfast was not an option, but I had been wanting to wean myself off them because I had been reading about how the highly processed soy by-products in them might not be so good for you. (Not to mention the fact that at over $1 per bar, they really add up in the grocery cart.)
No more! I am happy to report that I found a recipe for cereal bars courtesy of Nigella Lawson that is healthy, inexpensive, quick and easy to make and tastes better too. This would be a good recipe for kids to make because it’s so simple, all you have to do is measure and it doesn’t even really matter if you’re a little off. My sister thought this would also be a great snack to take in the car when she’s rushing the kids around to after-school activities!
Cereal bars (adapted from Nigella Express)
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (NOT instant); preferably organic (you can get these in the bulk section, along with most of the ingredients below)
1 cup each of the following: unsweetened shredded coconut, dried cranberries or other similar dried fruit, mixed seeds like sunflower or pumpkin, and nuts (I prefer walnuts or almonds, but if you want to go cheaper, use peanuts)
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (Trader Joe’s sells an organic one)
Preheat oven to 250 and lightly grease a 9×13 pan (I use this spray called Baker’s Joy, it works great). Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Put the condensed milk in a glass measuring cup or something similar and warm it in the microwave for a couple minutes on medium power (it gets runnier as you heat it and easier to mix in with the other stuff). Dump it in the bowl and mix WELL (you don’t want any dry spots). Smush it into the pan with a spatula so it’s all flat and even. Bake for 1 hour, let rest for 15 minutes, and cut into the size of your choice. (If you let them set longer, they’re harder to cut, but they don’t fall apart as easily.) I wrapped mine individually in wax paper and then stuck them in a Tupperware container. They will last quite a while and don’t need to be refrigerated or anything.
Variation: Tropical Cereal Bars
Substitute a combination of dried papaya, pineapple, or banana chips for the cranberries, and use cashews, Brazil nuts or macadamias for the nuts.