I have been looking for a suitable breakfast cereal bar, ever since I started Phase 2 and was allowed to eat a small portion of whole grains back into my diet. Although there are so many options available in the market, a very few met the constraints I had. I wanted the bars to be natural – no preservatives/colors etc. Also sugar free – no sugar, no high fructose corn syrup etc. Be rich in protein and fiber, and last have ingredients I liked – and taste good.
Sounds like an impossible feat, right? I thought so too. As an experiment I took on a basic recipe I found on one of the South beach diet sites, but I made changes to it by adding agave nectar as the sweetener, as opposed to using a sugar free substitute. My opinion with sucralose based sweeteners is that it is not natural – although derived from sugar – there is a lot of processing involved in making sugar – no sugar – hence the name ‘Artificial sweetener’.
Agave nectar is a naturally occurring sweetener, very similar to maple syrup. It has a very low glycemic index and hence doesn’t get absorbed into the blood stream as easily as sugar. It is made from the ‘blue agave plant’, tastes very much like honey, and doesn’t have any after taste. The good thing about it is that it is very sweet and you can get away with using 1/2 or 1/3 cup, when substituting for 1 cup of sugar in a recipe. It comes in dark, amber and light – similar to maple syrup. I have used the light amber version, that I got from Costco.
2 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup natural creamy no sugar added peanutbutter(I used Adams brand)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp agave nectar
2/3 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp salt
3 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 X 9 square baking pan with parchment paper such that there is overhang on both sides. In a bowl, add the egg whites and whisk until they break up and a bit frothy. Add the peanut butter and whisk to combine. Add in the vanilla extract and the agave nectar. Whisk to combine. Add the salt and whisk. Dump in the oats, cranberries and walnuts and mix with a wooden spoon or with your hands to coat the dry ingredients with the egg white mixture.
Press this mixture into the pan, making sure you get an even layer and pressing against the sides of the pan to ensure it sets. Place in the preheated pan and bake for about 20 -30 minutes, until the oats turn a slight golden brown.
Let this cool completely in the pan for 15 minutes. Gently remove it onto a cutting board. Let cool for another 5 minutes. Cut the square crosswise to make 2 rectangles. Cut each rectangles into 6 bars, making a total of 12 bars. Store in an airtight container – it lasts pretty long.
Verdict: These bars are versatile and taste really good. You can have them for breakfast or snack on them at any time of day – without feeling guilty. The tartness of the cranberries with the nuttiness rendered from the walnuts and peanut butter – they were delicious and very filling too. There is approximately 6 grams of protein in each bar, no added sugar and no added fat. Isn’t that good? Add to that knowing the ingredients of something you eat at the start of your day..Priceless!
- Rolled oats are recommended in this recipe, than quick cooking oats. I only had the quick cooking kind on hand and hence used it.
- If you don’t have agave nectar, use 1/4 cup sugar or 1/4 cup sugar substitute such as splenda in the recipe. You will have to increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees and the bars will be done in 10 minutes, so watch carefully.
- If you use egg substitute or egg whites from a can, use 6 tbsp of egg substitute to make up for 3 egg whites
- Feel free to play around the recipe by replacing the nut butters, the dried fruit and the chopped nuts in this recipe. A good variation would be almond butter, walnuts and raisins.
- You can also vary the grain by using pressed barley or pressed quinoa in place of the oats.