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Homemade realfood muesli bars (granola bars)

During Plastic Free July we have been saving any single-use plastic that would normally be thrown away, so that we can assess at the end of July just how much plastic we consume and how we could reduce that.  Throughout the month I also tested ways that we may reduce that plastic as we go.  This isn't a competition, its a learning experience, so its not cheating if you start to change some of your routine as you realise where all the plastic is coming from.

One thing that I knew was going to be an issue for us was muesli bars (granola bars for those in the US).  We go through around a box of 8 per week, and at over $4 a box, they're not cheap.  The brand that I buy is in a cardboard only box, but the bars are individually wrapped in plastic.  I don't think that there is any alternative bar that we could buy that is not individually wrapped, so I started to think about making an something similar at home (also because I bought kgs of organic rolled oats in bulk and haven't eaten as much porridge as expected!).  It had to be something quick and simple, part of the appeal of these bars is that they are easy to grab for a snack, we take them to work and for lunch when we're working on the farm.

As usual, when I started looking for a recipe I found a few different options:
Here's my analysis 
The unsoaked oats muesli bar recipe is just like what we buy, its probably the quickest and easiest option, just combine the ingredients and form into bars.  I know I said I wanted the easy option, but I also think if I'm going to make it myself, I should try to make it better than what I can buy.  I find that if I eat the bought bars too often I start to feel bloated.  This is probably due to oats being unsoaked.

As I've written previously, I try to either soak, sprout or ferment any grains that we eat, including flour in cakes and bread, and rice and quinoa before cooking.  I also soak oats when I make porridge.  To soak oats I combine the oats with water and a little kefir about 12 hours before I need to use them.  Soaking the oats is said to reduce the phytic acid content and increase the nutrient availability, and I prefer to soak long enough that the oats are starting to lacto-ferment, just to be sure.  Maybe its true, maybe its not, nobody seems quite sure, but I know I can digest oats more comfortably when I soak them, and that's the main thing!

Given the choice between a cooked and an uncooked recipe, I will always chose uncooked, as that means that more of the enzymes, vitamins and probiotics (from the kefir) are not damaged by the higher temperatures.  Also we own a dehydrator anyway, so its really no extra trouble to use that rather than the oven, its actually easier, because I can fit more into the dehydrator and I can just turn it on and walk away, I don't have to remember to get multiple trays out of the oven.  I do draw the line at soaking and then drying the oats AND then making them into bars.  That just seems like too much work.

The recipe I tried
I decided to try the first soaked, but uncooked, oats recipe, with a few adjustments to fit in with the contents of our pantry.

4 cups of rolled oats (organic), soaked overnight in plenty of water and 2 tbsp of kefired milk
2 cup desiccated coconut (organic)
4 cups of nuts and seeds (I used 2 cups of chopped peanuts, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, 1 cup sunflower seeds (organic) and about half a cup of chia seeds (organic))
1/2 cup coconut oil (organic)
1/2 cup of honey (raw)
pinch of sea salt

I tipped the oats into a large sieve to drain while I chopped the nuts in my food processor, and warmed the coconut oil and honey in a small pot.  I then combined about half the oats with half the nuts/seeds/coconut and half the oil and honey (and the salt).  It was just too much mixture to deal with all at once!

I panicked when I saw all the mixture, and decided to cook half of it in the oven and half in the dehydrator.  In case I ruined the whole lot in the dehydrator.  The mixture was so wet I had no confidence in the dehydrator's abilities!

I rolled the mixture into balls and squashed them down into round biscuits, as I couldn't get a bar shape to work.  I cooked half the mixture in the woodstove, at around 180degC for about half an hour, and the other half in the dehydrator at the hottest setting (75degC) for about 12 hours.  The woodstove 'bars' came out first, and were golden brown, the honey starts to caramelise, and nuts were a little roasted.  They were delicious, so I wasn't so worried if the dehydrator was a disaster.

I was very surprised to open the dehydrator and find that the bars were perfectly dry and also nicely stuck together as a bar.  They are a little brittle for Pete, he would prefer them chewier, so I will try the 55degC heat setting next time, which is probably better for enzymes and probiotics anyway.  The raw bars had a slightly different taste, but I liked them.  Both versions were a little sour from the fermentation, which nicely offset the sweetness of the honey.

The oven bars, once they had cooled, were kind of soggy on the bottom, and I put them back in the woodstove overnight with the door open, and that helped to dry them out (so that they will last longer).  (And I forgot that Chime the dog sleeps next to the woodstove, and she must have helped herself, as there were a few missing in the morning!)

I think that the bars were a success, they certainly taste good.  They were pretty easy to make, and one big batch should fit in the dehydrator, so its really just some time in the morning or evening before to start the oats soaking, then mix up the the rest of the recipe and put the balls into the dehydrator.  Turn on the dehydrator for 12 hours, and then remove the finished product.  They seem to last for a few weeks if they're dried out enough.  

Did you have any food challenges in Plastic Free July?  Have you ever made muesli (granola) bars?

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
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  1. It's a whole new world this soaking stuff but it really makes a difference.I went to make a protein shake this morning with nuts in it ,but realised that they hadn't been soaked. There is so much more planning in this way of cooking but it makes a world of difference to how we feel healthwise.I will have to try your bar recipe now . I am finding that even though I am intolerant to wheat ,if I soak my flour and use a sour dough , I can finally eat a real loaf of bread without a tummy ache!!

    1. I glad to hear that its helping you (and maybe I'm not just imagining the benefits, because I do think its helping me too). But it is more work, I think the secret is to do bulk batches of things, and put them in the freezer or vacuum pack them so you don't have to repeat the process too often :)

  2. Hi Liz
    I make my own, too, but don't soak. Mind you, the boys eat them so fast I don;t think it matters what I do to them! :)

  3. I've been making a granola bar for some time, the only problem is that it is addictive. But it is baked. It is the sugar and honey that stick it together but it has just enough. Any more and it's a jaw breaker: any less and it's almost like muesli. You can play around with the ingredients - chia, flax, sunflower seeds, quinoa etc. Here's the recipe if anyone is interested.

    Excellent GRANOLA BAR

    1. In a large bowl mix and then zap in microwave to dissolve sugar:

    ½ cup Brown sugar – packed and heaping
    1/3 cup Honey
    ½ cup Olive oil

    2. In food processor whiz for a few seconds to break up pieces:

    ½ cup Sliced natural almonds (or use ground almonds)

    Then add:

    2 Cups Quick-cook porridge oats
    1½ cups Rolled oats
    ½ cup Whole wheat flour

    Mix for a couple of seconds but be careful not to chop everything too small. It is only mixing you are doing.

    3. Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl with the warm liquid mixture. Mix with your hand until everything is equalized and crumbly.

    4. Tip out into a 9 x 13 non-stick pan. Spread out evenly and press down firmly. Then cut into squares. Press down again. (Note – you can’t cut it after cooking but it will break on the pre-cut lines even after the second packing.)

    5. Bake 30 mins at 320. Let it cool IN THE PAN, then tip it out and break up the pieces. Mmmm….


  4. They look delicious Liz! I like crisper granola bars so would probably go with your original dehydrator settings.

    Plastic wrappers are our major un-recycleable too. I can't understand how a company could individually wrap items, place them into a one or sometimes two other boxes or bags. SO many items come like that these days.

    1. The wrapping can be crazy sometimes, but I can't imagine how else to wrap a muesli/granola bar that is intended as a single-serve item.... so I can't really complain, that's why I wanted to just make something myself.

  5. Never thought of dehydrating them. Thank you for posting at the HomeAcre Hop; I hope you'll join us again this Thursday.

    1. I know, I think I could be using my dehydrator for more "baking" in the future, its opened up a whole world of possibilities!

  6. thanks for the comments everyone :)

  7. By adding tablespoon of rolled rye to every cup of rolled oats you activate the enzyme phytase that breaks off the phytic acid.
    Rolled oats have a lot of the PA, but lack the enzyme.
    Will sure give these cookies a go, might be just the snack for my husband so he doesn't topple off his pushbike on his way home...


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