I'm ashamed to admit it, but a decent percentage of my meals/snacks come in bar form. I stock up on Luna Bars and other packaged carb bars like it's going out of style. I'm just happy that bar-food (not to be confused with the other type of bar food, as in the kind that goes with happy hour) has improved since those original protein bars that were approximately the consistency of cardboard and glue. At least they're better than a candy bar for a late afternoon snack before my run.
But over the last couple of months I've been trying to make my own bars, to varying degrees of success. Granola bars were not my friend. (They went from bar to crumble in about 2 seconds.) These brown rice crispy bars are very friendly on the other hand. They come together quickly, require no baking, and are done in less than an hour.
And even though they're healthy (well other than those marshmallows, but something has to hold all those nutrients together), they're still amazingly chewy, with a little sweet/tart kick from the dried berries, and a good crunch from the almonds. No one will even realize the rice is brown, the sugar is reduced, and the fat is the healthy kind. Trust me. I've eaten them for dessert, snacks, and breakfast. But mostly I pack them up and bring them to share with my running group.
Brown Rice Crispy Bars w/ Fruit and Nuts
Adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network
Brown puffed rice is not the same as brown crispy rice. I've made these with both, but if you do use brown crispy rice, the measurements will be off. I remedied this by adding the crispy rice to the marshmallow mixture slowly until it felt like the marshmallow goop couldn't absorb any more crispy rice. You also probably don't need to toast the crispy rice, although I'm dubious of the need to toast the puffed rice too.
3 oz. (6 cups) puffed brown rice
3 oz. (3/4 cup) almonds, toasted and chopped
4 oz. (1 cup) dried fruit (I prefer half cherries, half cranberries)
7 oz. (4 cups) mini marshmallows
3 tbs. flax seed oil, plus more for pan
1 tbs. honey
-Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
-Line a 13X9X2 in. pan with foil, and lightly coat with oil.
-Spread the brown puffed rice on a sheet pan and toast for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-Combine the rice, almonds, and dried fruit in a large bowl.
-In a metal mixing bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, combine the marshmallows, flax seed oil, and honey. Be patient. You don't want the flax seed oil to get too hot or it will taste terrible. So keep stirring, keep the heat low, and don't try to do this in a pan directly on the burner.
-When the marshmallow is thoroughly melted and the oil is well mixed in, add the rice mixture and store to coat evenly.
-Coat the back of a spatula or a wooden spoon with oil and use that to press the mixture into the foil-lined pan evenly.
-Let cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container for 1 to 2 days. (After that the flax seed oil can make the bars taste bad.)