homemade energy bars IV: sunshine bars

I’ve been dreaming about creating the perfect home-made baked granola bars: toasty brown on the outside but with just the right chew factor that (some of) the bought ones have. I’ve managed with the chewy ones and the rolled ones and the fudgy ones, but the good old fashioned baked version has eluded me.

Yes, I’m picky. I’ve tried over 15 recipes, tweaking and re-tweaking. I’ve meticulously recorded every substitution and result. Most of the bars have turned out quite edible — something to be proud of even. But there’s always been one tiny problem. Too sticky. Too crispy. Too crumbly.

homemade granola bars

To add to my dismay, I desperately wanted crispy rice cereal in these elusive bars. Whenever I’d add the sticky ingredients, those rice puffs would soak it all in and mush up like an abandoned bowl of Cheerios. I wasn’t about to make Rice Krispy squares, laden with butter and melted marshmallows. I wanted something good.

homemade granola bars

Eventually I gave up and bought some, just like normal people do. But after the 18th disappointing, too-sweet bar with a novel-length ingredients list, I went back to my oats and my coconut. I begged them to co-operate. I needed them to get me through the last two weeks of school without putting up a fight.

homemade granola bars

homemade granola bars

I guess I did something right. While it was probably more luck than oat-whispering, I will say that Quaker and Kashi have nothing on homemade bars. Unless, of course, it takes you months to get them how you like them.

homemade granola bars

Good granola bars depend on the right proportion of ingredients, a sticky binder, and the right baking time and temperature. After many trials, I think I’ve found the right bar to usher me into a new season of triathlon training. Mostly closely resembling a Kind or Kashi-style bar, these are my new go-to, portable snack.

Sunshine Bars

this basic recipe lends itself well to creativity. see variations that follow

Ingredients

2 cups rolled oats (I like the old-fashioned, but quick would probably work)
½ cup oatbran or wheat bran
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup Craisins
½ cup sliced dried apricots
1 cup mixed seeds (I used mostly pumpkin, with a bit of sesame)
sprinkle of ground flaxseed
1  14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free this time, but you could use any type)
½ tsp vanilla
3 cups crispy rice cereal

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 250. In a toaster oven, toast the coconut and seeds until fragrant and just browned. Remove and set aside.
  2. Mix all dry together ingredients from oats to flaxseed, stirring to coat the dried fruit in powdery stuff.
  3. Warm the condensed milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until it’s nice and steamy. Stir into dry ingredients,  mixing until very well incorporated.
  4. Let the milk soak into the dry ingredients for 5 minutes. This will prevent the rice crisps from absorbing the liquid.
  5. Gently fold in three cups of rice crisps.
  6. Spread and press into a greased cookie sheet (I know, the picture shows a 9×13, but I used a cookie sheet this time around and it yielded much flatter, bar-like bars). To get the bars the right thickness, I put a loaf pan at one end of the cookie sheet and pressed the mixture up against it to make a smaller surface area. If you take up the whole cookie sheet, your bars will be much flatter and crisper.
  7. Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees. Cool for 15 minutes, cut, and wrap or store.  Bars should be eaten in a week or refrigerated.

Zesty Orange Bars: add 1-2 tsp fresh orange zest to the sweetened condensed milk as it warms. Use candied ginger in place of half the dried apricots.

Nut-Butter Bars: swap out a third of the condensed milk and add  ½ cup peanut butter. Omit the dried fruit, and instead of the 1 cup of seeds, use a mixture of your favorite nuts, finely chopped and toasted gently.

Oatmeal Cookie Bars: substitute raisins for both the craisins and apricots (1 and a third cup total)

Chocolate Chipper Bars: omit the dried fruit, and substitute 1 cup chocolate chips for the seeds.

16 thoughts on “homemade energy bars IV: sunshine bars

  1. April 18, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Awesome, Jen – just starting the hiking season now! I just might have to make some!

    A cucaracha, by the way (I learned in my Spanish class) is the Spanish word for cockroach. “The Cucaracha” is a Mexican folk song – its origins are unknown but the verses were changes over time to reflect political satire of the time – the more political verses first starting during the Mexican Revolution.

    You learn something new every day!

    1. Jen
      April 18, 2009 at 7:05 pm

      Ha ha, thanks Meg! I corrected my atrocious spelling, which I failed to fact check. (Bad journalist, bad!) I remember this now. Back in MYC I think we did this song on the piano, and I remember it being illustrated with cockroaches. Hopefully no one will associate my bars with those pesky bugs.

  2. john
    April 19, 2009 at 3:14 am

    Hi jen,what are craisins, are they raisins?,us poor blighties don’t recognise this item. Anyway, they look great and your encoraging me to eat healthier, thanks.

    1. Jen
      April 19, 2009 at 8:46 am

      Hi John! They are simply dried cranberries. Over here we call things by their brand name, and I guess Ocean Spray or some company started calling them craisins and for me, the name stuck. : )

  3. April 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    yum, I will have to try these next week!

  4. Anonymous
    May 8, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    man, making homemade granola bars is nearly impossible — thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Mark Benjamin
    February 9, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I also own a renewable energy blog and i personally think your site is awsome. will link to it from mine.

  6. February 26, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    What a cute blog! You make reading about food really fun; I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.

  7. March 1, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    A great recipe to use to replace my energy bars before and after my running training. I have always been dependant on energy bars to carbo load myself to have that extra energy for my long runs. Will try this recipe out and see if it has the same effect.

    Shafiq @ Best Running Shoes for Women

  8. Liz
    September 4, 2014 at 1:48 am

    I’ve got puffed wheat.. Do you think I could sub the Rice Krispie for this?

    1. The Hippie
      September 4, 2014 at 1:54 am

      The beauty of homemade energy bars is that you can experiment. I don’t see why puffed wheat wouldn’t work. Let me know how they turn out!

      1. Liz
        September 4, 2014 at 6:14 am

        Currently baking! Will keep you posted.

  9. Liz
    September 5, 2014 at 5:26 am

    The puffed wheat worked like a charm in a bind. Not as much crunch as the rice cereal I’m sure. Best granola bar recipe I’ve found to date. Thanks! Ps I am also a hippie and a triathlete. Hoping to complete my first ironman July 2015. The birth of my son this spring put that goral on hold until next summer!

    1. The Hippie
      September 5, 2014 at 5:43 am

      Great news, Liz! And welcome to the HT fold. Would love to have you visit often. Keep in touch.

  10. Tapageur
    November 2, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Anyone has the nutrition value of those?

    1. The Hippie
      November 4, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Hi there, I haven’t calculated for these bars, but it’s pretty easy to do if you plug the total calories of each ingredient into an online calorie counter, and add them up to get the total amounts for the whole recipe. Then, you simply divide by the number/size of bars you cut.