Tuesday, January 25, 2011

recipe experiment: homemade nutrigrain bars.

so, a few weeks ago, i mentioned that i was trying to make breakfast items that my husband could take with him. while cold cereal in a bag will work in a pinch, i try to mix it up.

color me ecstatic when i found these.  almost nutrigrain bars with whole food ingredients? yes please.  i could already see the beauty of it, the awesomeness of feeding my husband some nutritious breakfast food that still tasted yummy.

i followed the recipe as closely as i could.  i'll let you read the actual recipe, to give respect to the creator of it, and will just show you how my process went.

i gathered my ingredients first. 

 please forgive the flip, but the best i could do was photo booth.

what i like about this recipe is that, for the most part, it asks for ingredients that you likely already have, with the possible exception of half of a large jar of jam.  however, publix had a BOGO sale on preserves, so my husband requested blueberry.  please note that we purchased preserves, while the recipe calls for jam. i feel like that's important later.

then i followed the first two steps, which was to make the crust.  i used my kitchenaid mixer.


it came out the consistency of like a streusel or graham cracker crust, the kind that's crumbly but comes together when you press it into a pan. the recipe calls for an 8x12 pan.  i read that as about the same as a 9x13, but it didn't really work well, as there wasn't enough crust mixture to fill the bottom, but my only other option was an 8x8, which seemed too small.   so i made the best of it.

i ended up filling about 3/4 of the pan on the bottom.

then i mixed the preserves with the water and spread it.  it made a thin layer of blueberry, but because it was preserves, there were whole chunks of blueberries rather than a blueberry filling-type consistency. i spread it as much as i could, but there wasn't really enough to cover everything. some areas were better covered than others, though i tried to keep it equal.

i then sprinkled the rest of the mixture on top, much like a crumble.

here's what it looked like as it went into the oven:


 looks pretty delicious, right?

well, sort of.  musicboy wasn't a giant fan on the first day. he said it didn't really taste very blueberryish and that it likely needed more sugar.  i may have set him up for that, as i talked about them as "homemade nutrigrain bars" and he may have expected the same sort of fruit density and sweetness that you get with those.  i sort of balked at his request for more sugar, since i didn't want it to be too sweet, but he has loved them when i have sprinkled about 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of sugar on top before packing them in his lunch (which adds probably only about 10 calories). 

as i've thought about this recipe, and how it could be better and more acceptable to those who aren't giant whole food fans, i've thought about making a few changes.  when i make this again, which i will, i will do the following:
  • bake them for less time. the recipe calls for 20 minutes, but by then they were VERY brown. i think the tastes might be less overpowering if they were not quite as brown.
  • use a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flour. it tastes VERY wheaty, which grew on me but could be overpowering to some.  
  • add more preserves! the recipe calls for 10 ounces, which is about a cup and a fourth. i would use at least a cup and a half, possibly more. i don't think more fruit could possibly do anything bad.
  • not serve them until the next day.  after i cut them and put them in a tupperware, it was like the flavors melded. they are delicious now (i don't add sugar...only for my husband) and i'm quite a fan.  
the recipe was not difficult to make AT ALL.  it made about 15 bars, each of which has 162 calories, 3.7 grams of fat (0.3 of which is saturated), 12 grams (!) of cholesterol, 8 (! seriously!) grams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, and 2.4 grams of protein.  they are fairly filling and satisfying and, if they are a bit too sweet for you for breakfast, i think would make a fine cookie/bar treat.

i'll update you when i remake them and let you know if they turn out a bit better.  but, honestly, the longer they keep, the better they are.  so, give them a try if your family is a fan of nutrigrain bars--you might have a new option! 

though my experiment didn't go exactly as i expected, i like that i tried it and was able to troubleshoot it.  i feel like there's a wealth of awesome recipes out there on the internet, some of which seem too good to be true (the spiced pumpkin muffins i made today? never baked all the way through. VERY FRUSTRATING) but some are just as good as they seem (tried a whole wheat bread recipe that ACTUALLY ROSE.  extraordinary. and pretty tasty, from what i can tell).  you just have to give them a try. 

as my public service, i'll try to steer you in the good directions. :)

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