Take Along Snack

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Today there are so many prepackaged cereal snack bars available on the market, so it can make you dizzy trying to decide which one to pick. Yes, there are some good ones, but why not make your own? 

Let’s begin by understanding this recipe I've created. Oats are the main body of the recipe, so that ingredient is the constant. Other than that, you can be creative with several substitutions based on your personal preference and ingredients you have on hand. If you don’t have dried blueberries but have dried apricots - fee free to substitute! Have sliced almonds, but no walnuts, no problem. OK, you get the idea.

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My Oat Bars are perfect for take-along snack for traveling. You can also share your own snack bars at the office, bake sales, church socials, or your next tailgate. 

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Oat Bars

Makes 2 dozen bars

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2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup desiccated coconut (shredded & dried)

1/4 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or mixed

1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, or mixed; chopped

2 Tablespoons honey

2 Tablespoons, maple syrup

2 Tablespoons butter or canola oil, plus enough to grease parchment

1/2 cup mixed dried fruit, raisins, blueberries and cranberries

2 large ripe bananas, mashed 

1/4 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon cinnamon  

pinch fresh grated nutmeg

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. 

Line a 9-inch-baking sheet pan with parchment paper allowing two inches to over lap sides of pan. Brush parchment paper with melted butter.

Spread oats, coconut, nuts and seeds on another baking pan and toast in oven just until very light brown, about 5 minutes, stirring once. Use caution not to over brown. 

In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, and maple syrup. Stir over low heat until warmed. In a separate large bowl, mix together toasted oats, coconut, seeds, dried fruit, mashed banana, applesauce, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour butter mixture over and stir until well combined. 

While mixture is warm, spread into lined parchment baking pan with a spatula. Bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes, remove and allow to cool. 

Lift parchment by grabbing the sides of paper and place on a cutting board. Cut into bars, about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches.

For extra crisp bars, toast bars in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Lay cut bars out on a clean baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 300 degree oven until bars crisp, about 15-20 minutes.

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Granula

Granola is a popular healthy breakfast cereal + snack that has a nuttier history than the pile of pecans and almonds in its recipe. 

Here's a tad bit of granola history: Briefly, granola's roots trace back to the mid 1800s beginning with an American physician and minister named Dr. Sylvester Graham (preaching temperance & nutrition) who created the Graham Cracker. Then Dr. Jackson in 1863 took Dr. Graham’s cracker one step further by grinding up this whole wheat biscuit into smaller pieces then baked it, which became known as “Granula”. Sound familiar? 

That was when Dr. Kellogg’s whole wheat breakfast food was renamed “Granola” because of a pending lawsuit initiated by Dr. Graham regarding his trademark rights to the Granula name. BTW, Dr. Kellogg’s Granola cereal never really caught on commercially. But, in 1898 granola was the inspiration for Charles Post’s Grape Nuts Cereal.  

Not all healthier cereal was Kellogg's inspired though. A similar cereal by the Swiss Dr. Bircher-Benner created the popular Swiss cereal Muesli in the 1900s, after hiking in the Swiss alps. Birchermüsli Complet is still a popular food served especially on hot summer evenings. It's a combo of whole grains with fruits, nuts, topped with some good Swiss cream and yogurt. 

Like Dr. Bircher-Benner’s Muesli, granola is delicious beyond the breakfast table. It is a great midday snack alone, and is also good topped on ice cream. Granola makes a taste baking topper on fresh summer fruits like peaches, just bake as you would a cobbler. Or, simply prepare a fresh berry parfait or Creamy Rice Pudding from George Hirsch Lifestyle TV Series as a more elegant cool summer dessert!

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Today, granola recipes are as varied as our imagination and is so easy to make your own. Start with rolled oats (not quick cooking oats).

Spices may include cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom; orange zest, and crystallized ginger.

Nuts or seeds; may include almonds, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pecans.

Other additions may include coconut, cranberries, raisins, dates, peanut butter, pure maple syrup, honey or brown sugar. I almost hate to say it  - even chocolate chips. Just use very good quality chocolate.

George's Granola

About 12 servings 

chefgeorgehirsch.com | from George Hirsch Living it UP! cookbook

2 cups rice cereal

2 cups bran cereal

2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)

1 cup raisins or any combination dried fruit

1/2 cup pecans chopped

1/2 cup honey

Optional for flavor: 2 Tablespoons butter, melted 

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Vegetable spray

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. 

Spray vegetable spray on a nonstick roasting pan. 

Combine the rice cereal, bran, rolled oats, pecans, cinnamon, melted butter, and honey. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the oven. Granola should brown evenly and the browner it becomes, the crunchier and nuttier the granola will taste. Use caution not to burn. Mix in the raisins. Cool completely and store in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

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