Thursday, May 1, 2014

Inspired KIND bars

Ever since I knew that making my own granola/muesli bars was so easy, I've never went back to the overly-processed mushy, bland versions. And then, along came KIND nutrition bars. With a variety of unique flavors, they're totally appetizing in their clear and colorful packaging. Seeing the bars of whole nuts and especially the chocolate drizzle and base was an easy sell to my kids! They were on sale at the supermarket and it's been a busy week, so we had a spell of buying an easy, convenient, healthy and substantial snack. 

KIND bars are full of protein and antioxidants, some of them have lower sugar than others. Looking closely at the ingredients, they are, for the most part, simple and recognizable. Surprisingly, some include soy lecithin and soy protein isolate which can cause diminished libido, hormonal effects and mineral deficiency. (ref: Dr. Joseph Mercola)

Being conscious about the food we eat, I can easily avoid these ingredients by making my own version of these bars. After all, they can't be too hard to replicate. Of course, I'm not the only one to have thought this, so I simplified this copycat recipe from the Yummy Life. My first and third attempts using varied amounts of caramelizing sugar and honey were perfect at keeping everything together (recipe below). For my second attempt, I tried a vegan version with maple syrup instead of honey, and with the signature chocolate base, but that crumbled into disaster. Finally I tried to take the sugar out of it altogether, using dates and maple syrup, (like a Bliss Ball Bar) but they don't have the same crunch-value as the others. I use psyllium husk now in my baking recipes, thanks to Gluten-free Girl. It's high in fiber and good for your digestive health, as well as being a good "binder" for baking instead of xanthan gum. Although this recipe doesn't need to be baked, I added it to ensure that it sticks together. But after several trials, it is definitely the sugar caramelization that keeps the bars from falling apart, while the honey provides the nice balance of softness. 

1 1/2 cups whole almonds, unsalted
1 cup peanuts, unsalted
1/2 cup, walnut or pecan pieces, or sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup puffed millet, optional (see Note*)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp psyllium husk
1/2 cup honey
3-5 Tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/4 cup chocolate chips, of choice
1 tsp coconut oil

A 10" x 10" (or similar size) rimmed baking tray, lined with parchment paper. I never completely fill the tray, maybe it's because I don't have the puffed millet, there is about 2" of space, the mixture holds, so any size tray is fine as long as you can line up to at least three of the sides. 

  • In a frying pan, dry toast the almonds and walnuts / pecans on a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. 
  • Remove nuts from the pan and, in a large bowl, combine with the peanuts, sunflower / pumpkin seeds (if using), puffed millet (if using), chia seeds and psyllium husk (if using). 
  • In the same frying pan, add the sugar and honey. Bring to a boil stirring continuously until the sugar is melted and the mixture is frothy. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the pan, tossing to coat evenly. It should be a nicely sticky and caramelized mass of goodness. 
  • Pour and distribute evenly into prepared baking tray, to an even layer of about 1/2" thick. Press down lightly with a flat-bottomed cup to compact the mixture and fill up any spaces. 
  • Let cool for 20-30 minutes. Lift the parchment out of the tray and cut into bars, space them slightly apart from each other and let cool completely before drizzling the chocolate. 
  • In a small saucepan, add the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Heat for a minute or two, stirring constantly, until the chocolate and oil are melted and becomes smooth in consistency. Using a spoon, drizzle on top of the bars, by using a quick and light swinging motion (flicking your wrist), letting the chocolate drip on to the bars as the spoon is moving. 

*Note: I couldn't find puffed millet, so in my first attempt I just threw the millet grains into hot oil to try to puff them myself, but apparently, the grains need to be cooked and thoroughly dried before you can puff them (See how to Pop & Puff), or you can skip this altogether.  ;)

Play with your favorite flavors by adding cinnamon, vanilla, cayenne pepper or sprinkling sea salt. Add dried fruits like apricots, cherries, cranberries, blueberries to replicate some of your favorite KIND bars. Have fun! 

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