How many of you feel like your vehicle is your primary residence at times? In my crazy lifestyle, it feels like I spend more time driving in the car than at home! Game On! At one point, I was that mom who really didn’t let kids eat in the car. Yup. Game Off.
As you can imagine, that didn’t last too long as we were en route to ballgame #1, swim practice, ballgame #2, dropping off or picking up people. Inevitably, the little voice from the back of the car can be heard... “Mom, I’m hungry, can I have a snack?” (While you may read that and relate, hear the voice saying “Mooooooom, I’m huuuuungry. Can I haaaaave a snaaaaack?”) Every vowel is clearly enunciated with the proper usage of the ‘whining long vowel’. It’s like kryptonite to me -- I can’t even take it. Then you realize that, wow, it may be a while before you get home to a real meal. Yikes!
This isn’t the time to fool around -- that little voice needs a real snack, something that will last during the activity and get him through to mealtime. Our snack of choice is Cherry Almond Quinoa Granola Bars. It’s a hearty, healthy snack filled with fruits, nuts and grains. Our family loves them, and I know exactly what’s in it because I made it! Let me show you how easy these are to make.
First, line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper so that it extends past the edges of the pan. Set it aside.
Next take 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) and place it in a large saucepan over low to medium heat.
Pour in 1/2 cup honey.
Add 1/2 cup almond butter. Most grocery stores now carry almond butter. If you can’t find it, look in the specialty items or natural foods section in your grocery store. We usually have almond butter on hand to use as a peanut butter substitute, as we have a peanut allergy in our household.
Add 1/2 cup brown sugar into the mixture. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. It usually takes about 8-10 minutes to boil.
Once boiling, continue cooking, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.
If the almond butter still appears chunky, you can crush it against the side of the saucepan with a fork.
While your mixture is boiling, gather the dry ingredients that will be mixed in.
First, place 2 cups old-fashioned oats in a large bowl. I mistakenly grabbed quick oats, which are more “chopped up,” the first time I made this. You will want the old-fashioned kind where the oat seems more “flattened.”
Then add 1 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal.
The super grain that everyone is so crazy about these days is quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). What’s the deal with it? It’s high in protein, fiber and easy to cook with. My kids are not the greatest at eating a daily ration of protein or fiber, so in my own mind, if I can sneak in something that might be “healthy” (of course without telling them), I get points toward my mom “gold star” card! So, rinse 1 cup quinoa and then add it into the dry mix.
The most fun ingredient for the boys to help with is adding in 3/4 cup roasted, salted almonds, roughly chopped.
Add 3/4 cup cherry-flavored cranberries. I have also used dried cherries or even a mix of cherries and cranberries before and the granola turned out amazing!
3/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut goes into the mix next.
Back to the saucepan! After 5 minutes of stirring the sauce mixture constantly, it will start to bubble and look like this:
Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. It smells decadent when you pour it in! I was going to put in a picture, however, almond extract is clear, so you couldn’t see it very well. Then add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and mix well.
Next is the fun part! We're adding in all the remaining dry ingredients to the sauce mixture.
Stir ingredients together and continue mixing until all ingredients are well-coated.
Pour the granola mixture into the parchment paper prepared pan. (Say that three times fast!)
This is another part that is fun for the boys to help with because I let them “squish” the granola into the pan. If you choose to press the granola down with your hands, a great tip for keeping your hands from getting burned is to coat them with butter first. Come to think of it, that’s probably the real reason the boys like to help. Who says you can’t play with your food? A wooden spoon works equally well.
Just like that, it’s done. If you let them press the granola down with butter on their hands, this is the point when you would need to drop everything and tackle the child before he ran through the house touching everything and laughing all the way! It’s hard finding good help these days.
Leave the granola out on the counter to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or just leave in the fridge overnight. The recipe says 15 minutes to prepare and is very true to time. Because this is an easy recipe, I can often make this quickly the night before a big run or when we have a busy day ahead.
By using the parchment paper, the granola pops right out of the pan. So you can cut it into bars.
Bite-sized pieces are great for the kids.
While the recipe says to wrap each bar in plastic or waxed paper, after cutting the granola into bars or bite-sized pieces, I just put them into plastic resealable bags. As you can see, these went straight to school as bite-sized snacks.
Store the granola bars refrigerated. In a large gallon-size bag, I have all the individual bags so we can grab granola on the go.
These aren’t just for kids in my family. I’ve learned that the bite-sized portions are the most popular with my running friends! They can keep them in their running packs to easily (and safely!) pull out a snack while running. Good luck snack packs are ready for delivery for a big race weekend!
We’re a family on the go! I used to buy granola bars by the case to have on-hand as snacks. However, when I was looking at the ingredients, I was pretty sure I could make granola at half the cost and without all the additives and preservatives. Cherry Almond Quinoa Granola Bars have 6 grams of protein. It’s a filling snack that keeps my kids going, and I feel great knowing it’s a smart alternative to a sugary snack that’s going to just leave them in a comatose state from a mid-game sugar crash. You don’t want to be around for that one -- it’s not pretty! So get your “Game On” and get to making some granola!