Oatmeal Chocolate Banana Bread Bars


So you are hungry. You have nothing yummy to eat and you don’t want to go to the store. Besides the last time you read the labels on those so called natural granola bars, it made you cry. Well, just whip up a batch of these super easy oatmeal bars and you have breakfast, lunch, or dessert!  I was really tempted to add some peanut butter, but I wanted to try them the way the recipe called at least the first time.  I did add pecans to half the pan which were not called for, and I actually like them better than the side without nuts.

These remind of something I have had before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. My childhood? Food from an era before mass production of fake processed and chemically “enhanced” foods? Perhaps. It’s just simple homemade, chewy, moist and chocolatey with a hint of  banana. So what if you are one of the few people who do not like chocolate? I will allow you to omit the sinful dark confection for something else, but you will be missing out.

So if you are reading this and wondering what’s actually in that last store bought granola bar you ate, let me show you this. This is taken from what is advertised as “healthy” and “low fat”. All I see here is a long list of ingredients and many of them I have no idea what they are or how they are made or where they actually come from and we shouldn’t be eating them. In case you are not familiar with some of these items, I have provided links below to the definition and uses. Some were quite shocking to know that they are in these granola bars, but also can be used in jet fuel, cigarettes, or in cleaning products. Makes you think!

::: CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP BARS :::
Ingredients:

GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, BROWN SUGAR, CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT],WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED COCONUT, WHOLE WHEATFLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SOY LECITHIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NONFAT DRYMILK), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOABUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT), CORN SYRUP, BROWN RICE CRISP (WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE, SUGAR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, SALT), INVERTSUGAR, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, GLYCERIN, SOYBEAN OIL. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SORBITOL, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, WATER, SOY LECITHIN, MOLASSES, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (preservative), CITRIC ACID.

I don’t know about you, but how about we make something with far less ingredients and chemicals in it. You know they say we should be eating how our great-grandparents or grand-parents ate. Very little processed foods, homemade, organic (that was norm), whole foods and fresh ingredients. It’s really not that difficult, and this treat whips up in about 10 minutes and cooks in only 25.  Be prepared for a taste sensation – and try NOT eat the whole pan in one day.


Oatmeal Bars


Yield about 20-32 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil or softened butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 – 1 cup pecan halves (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease an 8×12″ stone baking dish and set aside.
  • In a large bowl or mixer, mash the banana.
  • Add the oil and brown sugar. Beat on medium until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
  • Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients mixing slowly until combined.
  • Fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  • Spread mixture evenly into pan.
  • In a pattern, carefully place pecan halves in a row on top of the mixture.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are golden.
  • Let cool before cutting into squares.
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1 Month Green Smoothie Challenge

My goal in mid April was to have one healthy smoothie for breakfast, every day for one month. So far I am on  day # 12. A healthy smoothie is one that is blended with fruits & vegetables; things like avocados, kale, spinach, carrots, fruits, yogurt, coconut water, almond milk, 100% fruit juice or 100% fruit & veggie juice.  No added sugar, no ice cream or frozen yogurt, just things that give you natural energy and tons of vitamins.

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Having at least one smoothie like this a day, will give you all of your required 5 serving of fruits & veggies each day. You will soon start to have more energy and you might start to care more about what you are eating the rest of the day. Personally for me, it gets my day started off on the right foot and while I absolutely adore the taste of coffee, when I have a smoothie first thing in the morning, before any other food or drinks, I notice I am less hungry and I don’t NEED that cup of coffee to function. I end up having a cup of coffee later in the morning, or early afternoon, and sometimes I can just skip it altogether and I don’t get a caffeine headache.

The other reason this Green Smoothie Challenge is since it’s only one smoothie per morning,  you don’t have to give up eating regular meals for lunch and dinner. This way you are guaranteed to get the nutrients your body desperately needs. Starting your day off with something in your stomach besides coffee, doughnuts, bagels, and croissants, or nothing at all, is so much better for you. You will have more brain power at work, pay better attention in school, and have more energy overall. Some smoothie/juice diets are for several weeks and for “cleansing”, and yes I will do those from time to time. For a true cleansing you only are allowed juices or smoothies. When I do a cleanse, I have 2-3 healthy smoothies a day, and a salad for lunch with only fruits, beans, nuts, and veggies, topped with a low fat balsamic vinaigrette.  No cheeses, no meats, no creamy dressings, no croutons, and no bacon bits!  90%-100% of your food intake should be vegetables or fruits during the cleanse.

To get you started on your 1 Month Green Smoothie Morning Challenge, I have given you all the tools and instructions on how to become a smoothie expert. Below are the instructions to make the best, creamiest, and highly nutritious beverages. Mose people are afraid to try these because of their  green or brownish colors. If you think about it, those are colors in nature, healthy, not dyed, untampered with natural goodness. Please give it a try, I promise you, you cannot taste the greens in these smoothies. They are just amazingly tasty cups of magnificent splendor. Once you go green, you will be hooked.


Note: you will want a combination of fresh greens, fresh fruits and frozen fruit. The frozen fruit helps your smoothie be nice and cold, I personally prefer mine cold. If you prefer to drink your smoothie closer to room temperature, then use all fresh fruit. Also, you will want to have just enough for about a week, otherwise if you buy too much fresh produce it will go bad before you can use it. I like to alternate my greens every 5-7 days. I use one up until it’s gone. Leafy greens seem to go bad the fastest, and you only use a cup at a time, so one bag of pre-washed & chopped kale lasted me a week.


::: List of ingredients used over the course of a month :::

  • Almond Milk ( or Soy Milk or regular milk)
  • Coconut Water
  • Pineapple Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Fruit & Veggie Juice such as Tropicana Farmstand
  • Kale – fresh
  • Spinach – fresh
  • Bok Choy – fresh
  • Avacados – fresh
  • Carrots- fresh
  • Bananas – fresh
  • Strawberries -fresh or frozen
  • Blueberries – fresh or frozen
  • Peaches – fresh or frozen
  • Raspberries – fresh or frozen
  • Blackberries – fresh or frozen
  • Kiwi – fresh
  • Pineapple – fresh or frozen
  • Mango – fresh or frozen
  • Apples – fresh
  • Your favorite fruits
  • Rolled quick oats
  • Natural peanut butter

::: Tools & Tips of the Trade :::

While any blender will work for your smoothies, a mid-high quality blender will last you longer than a cheap one. Since you will be using the blender at least once a day and trying to puree tough greens, you should invest in a decent one.  I highly recommend a blender with an ice crushing feature.  If you can afford a blender in the $75.00 – $150.00 range, you should be very happy with any of these.

I own the Kitchen aid 5 speed high performance blender. I got a great deal on it at a department store. I think I paid about $75.00 a year or two ago. My favorite things about this blender are the ice crusher setting and the fact that it came with two pitchers in different sizes. It honestly makes the best homemade smoothies. The only other smoothies that are blended this well have been from Jamba Juice or Juice Shack. It also doesn’t hurt that it makes killer margaritas and pina coladas too! I LOVE THIS BLENDER.

KitchenAid

If you are willing to spend a little more cash on a good blender any of these would work as well. You really do not need to purchase a restaurant quality $300-$500 blender. Unless you are going to be making dozens of smoothies everyday, you really don’t need to spend the extra money.

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Blending instructions:
1. Blend your liquid(s) and your leafy greens first. I use the ice crush mode, then switch to liquify for another 10-20 seconds or so. You want the greens to liquify as much as possible for a nice smooth texture.
2. If you are adding carrots or other harder veggies, throw those in with the greens before you start to blend.
3. Then add the remainder of your ingredients.
4. Use the ice crush mode again to break up the frozen fruit, until they are completely broken up.
5. Set it to mix for about a 10-15 seconds.
6. Kick it in high gear on the highest setting, mine is liquify, for about another 10-20 seconds, until completely smooth. (There should be NO LUMPS or chunks of fruit left. If there are, keep blending until you have a beautiful creamy consistency.)
::: Pay close attention to your blender, each one will take a different amount of time. If you push it too hard, you can wear the motor down. If you have to use a lower setting, that’s ok :::



::: 1 Month Green Smoothie Challenge ::: DAYS # 1-10 :::



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Day 1.  Blue Almond

  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1\2 cup strawberries
  • 1\2 an apple

Day 2.  Tropical Treasure

  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup OJ
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1 banana
  • 3 strawberries

Day 3. Orange you glad I said Banana

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  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup OJ
  • 1 banana
  • 2 clementines
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Day 4. PB&J Oatmeal Bar

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango 
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of peanut butter

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Day 5. Pineapple Plantation

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup kale
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1 kiwi
  • 1 banana

Day 6. Sea Green Paradise

  • 1/2 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches

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Day 7.  Strawberry Popeye

  • 1 cup Tropicana Pomegranate Blueberry Juice
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches

Day 8. Greener Pastures

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  • 1 cup Spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup frozen pineapples
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 medium banana

Day 9.  Banana Berry Monster

  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 2 large strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Day 10. Peachy Purple Pom

  • 1 cup kale
  • 1 cup Tropicana Pomegranate & Blueberry  Juice
  • 1/2 avacado
  • 1 small banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

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