Lately, I can feel myself emerging from the (beautiful! fortunate! oh, so grateful!) fog of baby life. Aden will be two years old next month, and I feel our lives simplifying with each passing day. And, for the first time in years (four years, to be exact), I am finally sleeping through the night on a consistent basis. News flash: sleep rocks! Days are infinitely brighter with a good night's rest.
With that, I finally have time and energy to devote to my health. It's no secret, I love chips (like, I love them so hard I'd marry them). I've survived solely on chips, coffee and wine for quite some time which is terrible to admit. Really, our entire family has some pretty poor eating habits and while Andi is a grown adult who makes his own choices, it dawned on me recently how much my unhealthy eating habits trickle down to Tory and Aden. When the afternoon munchies hit around 4:00pm, I used to pull a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos from the cupboard and my kids would line up like baby birds with their hands out. How awful is that?!
More to the point, I began to notice how picky Tory and Aden were about the foods they ate during meal times. They're both hearty eaters, but only when foods they like are in play -- frozen waffles, toast, frozen chicken fries, buttered noodles, etc. Tory flat-out refuses fruits and vegetables and Aden is heading down that path. I grilled chicken breasts for dinner the other night and Tory said, "Oh, I thought you said we were having chicken?" I reminded her that the food on her plate was chicken and she said, "Oh, I want my favorite chicken (Tyson Chicken Fries)."
Ugh. How can I expect them to eat well if I don't set a very good example myself.
So, two weeks ago I decided to start eating "clean" and exercising. No more processed foods; I'm committed to eating healthier meals and snacks. So far I've done really well with only a few slip-ups. And, I've exercised consistently for the past 10 days! Really proud of myself for that. Setting a meal plan and prepping food ahead of time has really helped me succeed, and this is one recipe my whole family loves.
Healthy Homemade Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 2/3 cup quick rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (to make your own: grind 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats in a food processor or blender until you have the smooth consistency of flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 cups of dried fruits and nuts*
1/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter
6 Tbsp. melted butter (I use Earth Balance to make the bars dairy-free)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1 Tbsp. water
*For my mix, I used sliced almonds, chia seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), flaxseed, raisins and mini chocolate chips. Other suggestions: dried apricots, cranberries and/or cherries, unsweetened coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruits and nuts. In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter, peanut butter/nut butter (if using), honey and water. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.
Here, I deviate from the original recipe's instructions. My mom gave me this cool Pampered Chef brownie pan and it's perfect for this granola bar recipe! The recipe's cooking time when using the PC brownie pan is drastically less than when using a traditional 8x8 pan.
Spray the pan with non-stick spray on all sides. Scoop 1/3 cup of granola bar mixture into each square (if using the PC brownie pan), or dump and spread the mixture into a 8x8 pan. Use your fingers to press the mixture down into the shape of the pan.
Bake the bars for 9-11 minutes (if using the PC brownie pan), or 30-40 minutes (if using a standard 8x8 pan). I watch my bars pretty closely around the 9 minute mark until they're slightly brown on the edges.
Cool completely in the pan or on a cooling rack. Once cool, use a knife or small metal spatula to loosen the bars from the sides of the pan. (Cut into bars using a serrated knife if using a 8x8 pan). I love how the granola bars are already in perfectly portioned squares using the PC brownie pan!
Wrap the bars individually in Saran wrap and store in a gallon Ziploc bag. I like to keep mine refrigerated, or freeze for later consumption.
These granola bars have been a great snack option for the kids and I. I've made four batches in two weeks, so it's safe to say they're a hit!