For those who know me or have followed The Fountain Avenue Kitchen for a while, you know I have cooked a lot of oatmeal. Several years ago, I began to feel as though I was doing my part to bring the humble oat back into vogue! With good reason–it’s a convenient, hearty, and healthy way to start the day. If you look through the breakfast category of this blog, you will find quite a few recipes, starting with my original version (which happened to win a national contest!), followed by quite a few seasonal variations.
Until recently, however, I didn’t work a lot with quick or instant oats. But after being introduced to Bakery on Main and their wonderful assortment of granolas, granola bars, and instant oatmeal, I started experimenting in new ways.
Bakery on Main’s oatmeal packets initially appealed to me because they include ground flax and chia seeds and are gluten-free. Their flavored packets are much lower in sugars than many similar products, and the ingredient list is short and wholesome.
My kids love chewy granola bars, and many people have asked me if I have a recipe. Until now, I had not shared my recipe because the bars could be a little crumbly if the measurements and technique weren’t precise. This is often a problem with homemade granola bars unless the sugar, honey, or syrup content is high enough to provide sufficient “glue.” Yet part of the reason people want to make their own granola bars is to reduce the sugar content and make them healthier.
What I found is that the pre-measured instant oatmeal packets work perfectly. Not only is the chance of scooping too many oats eliminated, the finer grind of the oats allow for better binding with a moderate amount of sweetener. I shared this recipe with a few friends, and after using the individual oatmeal packets and the technique I provide below, they were thrilled with the results. My original recipe included ground flax seed, yet I was able to forego this addition since the Bakery on Main packets include it.
Recently, I have been experimenting even more with instant oats–which have the same nutritional profile as old-fashioned or steel cut oats but are simply cut thinner–and am finding more easy, delicious, and healthy ways to use them. So even if your children don’t love the mushy side of oatmeal, there may yet be a way to provide them a wholesome, wholegrain breakfast that they truly enjoy.
- 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
- 1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) brown sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces) honey
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 packets Bakery On Main instant unsweetened oatmeal (see notes)
- 1 1/2 cups crispy rice or puffed brown rice cereal (certified gluten-free, if necessary)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
- Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Lightly grease the foil.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the the oats, rice cereal, and almonds. Set aside. (Mixing the dry ingredients first allows you to act quickly later when the honey mixture is hot.)
- Combine the butter, brown sugar, and honey in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. As soon as the mixture reaches a full boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes without stirring. The mixture will look foamy. Remove the pan from the heat, and immediately stir in the almond butter and salt.
- Immediately after that, add the oat mixture to the pot, and stir until fully incorporated. It is easier to completely mix when the mixture is still very warm.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, and press down firmly with a rubber spatula or your clean hands to evenly distribute.
- Sprinkle the miniature chocolate chips over top (you may add more or less according to taste), and press on them with the spatula so the chips stick. (Again, to ensure that the bars hold together well, the mixture should be firmly pressed into the pan.)
- Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour or two to cool.
- Using the foil, transfer the contents to a cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife (a chef's knife works well), cut into bars. If the bars crack when cutting, allow them to sit at room temperature for a few minutes first.
- Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you stack them, place parchment or wax paper in between the layers so the bars don't stick together.
- This is the equivalent of 2 cups of instant oats. The use of instant oats prevents the bars from being crumbly. The Bakery On Main packets are a nutritional bonus because they contain flax meal and chia seeds; they also allow for easy, precise measurements.
- If you prefer to substitute dried fruit for the chocolate chips, mix an equivalent amount into the dry ingredients instead of pressing on top. (If you stir the chocolate chips in with the dry ingredients, however, they will melt.)