Thursday, November 15, 2007

Homemade Fruit and Nut Spiced Cereal Bars (Fig and Date Bars)

As a child, I wasn't too careful about what went into my system early in the morning, and trying to get ready to reach my school in time never made breakfast a priority for me. Even when my mom and dad kept pestering me to eat properly and chew my food, most of the days I ate a slice of bread washed down with a cup of chocolate milk!! But as I grew up and became a bit more sane, I realised that breakfasts were the most important meal of the day, and it pays to make a healthy start. This led to discovery of cereals, and when I laid my eyes on the flavorful, tasty and healthy POST Cereals, I had found my paradise!! My love (or shall I say, my sanity?) for eating healthy, at least when I can, kept growing, and now I make it a point to keep some protein and cereal/granola bars handy in my purse or my office drawer so I don't have to binge on junk food in times of dire need! But buying those bars regularly can be an expensive affair, and when you realize that they are actually pretty simple to make at home, and you can choose your ingredients, cooking these and storing them at home makes even more sense. So here's a simple recipe for a Fruit and Nut Bar that I make at home. What I like about it is that you can modify it with so many choices and variations that you'll never get bored with the taste!

1/2 cup butter (without trans fat)- unmelted
2 tbsp honey
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup corn-flakes (I used POST grain cereals) - lightly crushed
12-15 pitted dates
8-10 dried figs
2 tsp ginger - shredded
1/2 cup pecans - chopped coarsely
sugar - only if you need it

Preheat the oven to 320°F. Line a shallow baking tin with parchment paper and keep it ready.

Place the butter, sugar and honey into a small saucepan and let this cook for 5 mins on low heat. Keep stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom. On the other side, take the dates and figs and boil them in 1/2 cup water. Keep low flame and remove from heat as soon as the fruits have started turning to pulp. Let this mixture cool, then slowly mash with a ladle and stir to blned them well together.

In a large bowl add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the butter mixture. Keep mixing with your hands until all the ingredients have been coated and the mixture becomes sticky.

Now press the oat-cornflakes mixture into the tin. Level it with the back of a spoon to Then pour a layer of the date-fig mixture onto it; again press a little, and follow with a final layer of the dry mixture. Make sure that it is well compressed.

Place in the oven and bake for about 35-40 mins or until golden brown. Let it cool completely in the tin, at least 3-4 hours. Once it is cool, lift out and place it on a wire rack. When you see that it is sufficiently hard, yet chewy, slice into desired shapes to make your bars. Store these in an air-tight container in a refrigerator. Enjoy these Healthy Cereal Bars with Milk in the morning or as a light yet filling snack any time of the day!

I love the other variation which involves using dried apricots with coconut. It tastes yummy!
This goes to Nags for the WBB#17-Cornflakes Event that she's hosting this month! Nothing better than these delicious and healthy bars as a way to eat cornflakes at breakfast, right?

Tip: You can add chocolate chips as well, or even dried appricots, cranberries, dessicated coconut, raisins, almonds or pistachios, or any other grains of your choice. As I said, this basic recipe can be modified in several ways to keep changing the taste while being sure that you are eating healthy!

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