Even if we deserve it, not every morning can start off with a full-plated, farmer-style breakfast, complete with pancakes, bacon and fresh fruit. Some mornings — more so lately, it seems — require a fast, nutritious breakfast that you can eat on the go, in between conference calls and setting up your kids' virtual classroom meetings.
Enter the humble breakfast bar.
But wait, I'm not talking about those sugar-filled, prepackaged bars you spend loads of money on to only get six carb-loaded bricks that are gone within days, or left in the bottom of backpacks. Homemade breakfast bars can be super simple to make and adaptable to your family's tastes. And, most importantly, delicious.
My 5-year-old son often comments when I make any version of these, "You know what would taste great in these, mama? Chocolate chips!" And he's not wrong (because, honestly, don't chocolate chips make everything taste better?) So, sometimes I throw in chocolate chips, or clean out my pantry and use up bits of dried fruit laying around in bags hiding behind the extra jars of peanut butter.
My husband works outside our home right now, and often has to leave early in the morning, grabbing a few bars wrapped in parchment paper for the road. I sometimes don't realize I haven't had breakfast while working from home (something I'm hearing others are doing a lot lately, too) so having these on hand for that 10:30 a.m. stomach grumble keeps me from grabbing a handful of Pirate Booty as I dash through the kitchen.
Oatmeal Applesauce Bars are a great way to use up homemade apple sauce that never seems to get fully eaten in my house. Or, I'm sure jar sauce will work just as well. If your applesauce isn't sugar-free consider adjusting the sugar in the recipe so the bars aren't too sweet. And five-ingredient Homemade Granola Bars are super simple and adaptable to what you have on hand. Warning: While extremely easy to make, the recipe is sticky. So, you'll want to clean up your dishes right after, or at least let everything soak in good, hot, soapy water.
OATMEAL APPLESAUCE BARS
Recipe courtesy of Food in Jars
3 cups rolled oats, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, melted
Optional add-ins: 1 cup toasted pecans, walnuts or almonds, toasted
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13-by-9-inch pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper, leaving the paper ends protruding to so that it hangs on two opposite sides.
In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups of the oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Process until the oats are broken down, which only takes a few minutes. Add the eggs, applesauce, brown sugar, and melted butter and process just until the ingredients are well-mixed.
Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of rolled oats and the toasted nuts if you are using them, and pulse five or six times, until the mixture is just combined.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the tops are a golden brown, the corners have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
Remove the oat slab from the oven and let it cool completely before removing from the pan. Once it is cool, use the overhanging parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Slice into 12 equal bars with a serrated knife.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Or wrap the bars individually and freeze in Ziplock bags.
HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS
Recipe courtesy of Minimalist Baker
1 heaping cup packed dates (pitted)
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup if making vegan)
1/4 cup creamy salted peanut butter or almond butter
1 cup roasted unsalted almonds (loosely chopped)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
Optional add-ins: Chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, banana chips, vanilla
Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain (about 1 minute). It should form a "dough" like consistency, which basically means rolls into a ball.
Optional: Toast your oats (and almonds if raw) in a 350-degree F oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Make sure to watch these as toasted goes to burnt rather quickly.
Place oats, almonds and dates in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Warm honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat, again watching closely as honey can burn quickly. Stir and pour over oat mixture and then mix, breaking up the dates to disperse throughout. This will take a few minutes and the consistency will be closer to clumps than one large mixture.
Once thoroughly mixed, transfer to an 8-by-8-inch baking dish or other small pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper so they lift out easily.
Press down firmly until uniformly flattened. To keep your hands from sticking to the mixture, use extra parchment paper on your hands when pushing down.
Cover with parchment or plastic wrap, and let firm up in fridge or freezer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove bars from pan and chop into 10 even bars. Store in an airtight container for a few days, or freeze.