Intro: Special "O" Bars
You can make delicious and semi-healthy breakfast bars that are 10 times fresher and half the price of store-bought breakfast bars! This Instructable is highly modifiable, and requires no baking. This is a good recipe to do with the kids.
If you are concerned about keeping these healthy, know that I have done the math on carbohydrates, and following this recipe you are getting a slightly larger bar with the same (or slightly less) than you would get from a commercial cereal bar. Using all Splenda (no sugar) and a little less corn syrup, you will make a lower carb' treat.
Step 1: Go Shopping, Buy Your Supplies.
- 1 Box (about 7 cups) - Generic Strawberry Special K Cereal (pictured is "Strawberry Awake" from Wal-Mart)
- 1 Cup - Splenda Sweetener (see notes below) or Sugar
- 1/8 - 1/4 Cup - Powered Milk (gives it that breakfast cereal taste)
- 1 Cup - Light Corn Syrup (one jar is about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 squeezable icing - Not at all healthy, but gives a nice appearance
- 1/4 - 1/2 Tablespoon - Artificial strawberry flavoring
- 1/2 bag - Dried cranberries
Now, I should explain a few things about ingredients ...
Corn syrup is liquefied sugar. It's loaded with carbohydrates. Following this recipe, you will make breakfast bars that are AS healthy as a name brand "Special K" bar (which is not healthy at all). You may modify this recipe, but the less syrup you use the less sweet your bars are. Also, the sticky consistency of the syrup makes these easy to press into bars. Using less syrup will give you crumbling bars. Some have suggested using honey ... which wouldn't taste well here. Also, if you go with honey, check the label. If you are buying the cheap stuff, the chances are it's mostly corn syrup anyway. The bottom line is: I would not suggest using less than 3/4 cup of corn syrup for this recipe.
Splenda is expensive, and may have health risks! You can really use Splenda as you would sugar, and in this recipe you will never taste the difference. In fact, you could cut back and use less than I did - because the cereal is all ready infused with a good deal of sugar right out of the box. But ... because of the cost and possible health risks, you may just want to use real sugar. If you are going to eat more than a few of these in one sitting, use sugar. For more information - see this WikiPedia page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucralose
Cranberries? Yes. Have you ever checked the ingredients on the name brand bars? They use strawberry flavored cranberries. Note that you will be more than doubling the amount that they put into the commercial bars - and these are very good for you.
Powered Milk? It's not really required. I would suggest only using a small amount, if at all. It's well worth it for that hint of a milky taste in the final product. Use too much, and your liquid process will turn into a meringue.
Artificial Flavoring This too can be skipped all together. It will run you about $3.00 for a small bottle. If you use it, use it VERY sparingly. The flavor comes loose when it hits the sugar. Do NOT use any more than 1/2 a Tablespoon. This was an experiment on my part, and I thought the final product was very tasty with the added flavoring.
Icing on a healthy bar? I know someone is going to hit me on this. It's pure sugar. If you don't want to use it, don't buy it. But your final product won't have that Martha Stewart appeal if you don't ice it.
Step 2: Gather the Tools and Equipment
- A large counter or table space (preferably both)
- COOKING SPRAY (do not skip this, you WILL regret it)
- A big mixing bowl (that will hold 7 cups)
- Measuring cup
- SMALL pot (smaller is less to clean)
- A wisk
- Wooden spoon, or spatula
- Teaspoon measure
- Big knife
- Two aluminum pans. (Large one for the product, small one for the processing)
Step 3: Creating the Glue
Assuming you have only one measuring cup ... you had better do things in this order.
1) Measure out 1 cup of Splenda sweetener, and dump it into a cereal bowl. Set it aside.
2) Measure out 1 cup of corn syrup, and put it into your small pot.
3) Dump the Splenda on top of the syrup, and turn on the stove.
WASH THE MEASURING CUP IMMEDIATELY. It's gross, and sticky.
You need to keep the heat between low, and medium. If you start to boil the syrup, you will end up making butterscotch or caramel flavoring (neat, but bad with strawberries). Once the syrup starts getting hot, get your wisk and start mixing the concoction together. If you jump in before the syrup is hot, you will end up with a ball of dry Splenda in the middle of your wisk. Shake it out, and keep on truckin'. It happens.
If you are going to add strawberry flavoring, I would add that to the pot now.
If you are going to add dry milk, you can add that to the pot now as well.
Keep wisking! If it starts looking foamy, you may have used too much dry milk. That's all right. It will still taste very good, it's just no fun to cook. If you start seeing bubbles, lower the heat!
While that is heating up - get a sink full of soap and hot water. You will need it.
Step 4: Get Your Dry Good Ready
Are the kids helping? This step is for them!
Spray down the inside of a large mixing bowl with cooking spray. Trust me.
Dump the entire box of cereal into the mixing bowl. This should equate to about 7 cups. You can measure it out of you are that concerned. But your measuring cup is probably full of sticky syrup in the sink. Go wash that thing!
Stir in your cranberries. About half a bag is good. When you are eating these bars, you think you are eating strawberries. Notice that the cereal uses real freeze dried strawberries. I hate those, but they taste great in these bars.
Watch that sticky stuff on the stove, don't let it start boiling.
Step 5: Add It All Together
When hot, this glue stuff is like water. It will begin cooling almost immediately though, so have everything lined up and ready.
1) Spray down the inside of your big aluminum pan (13 X 9 or bigger).
2) Spray down the bottom side of a small aluminum pan (you'll see why).
3) Grab your glue concoction off the of the stove, and pour it evenly throughout the dry mix.
4) Spray a little cooking spray onto your wooden paddle, and begin stirring like a mad-man (or a mad-woman as I will not sexually discriminate against crazy cooking people).
If you feel that it's starting to harden up on you, that's because it is. But you have your pan ready, right?
Step 6: Dump the Mixture Into the Big Pan
Dump the cereal mixture into your larger aluminum pan, and use the wooden spoon to work it all out of the mixing bowl.
Take your mixing bowl to the sink, and dump it into hot water. Now. I mean it. It's sticky. If possible, have a friend, spouse, or child clean that for you now.
Step 7: Compact Your Concoction
To give your bars that "commercially manufactured" texture, you need to press them into tight little bars.
With all your mess in that pan, grab the smaller aluminum pan (or a cookie sheet with cooking spray on the bottom) and push down with it. Work the mixture into one side of the pan, and keep putting pressure on the stuff to force it flat. In this process you can determine how "high" you want your bars to be in size (aim for an inch or so).
It will all ready be harding up on you as it cools.
Step 8: Decorate Your Bars
For the Martha Stewart types, get some white icing and create a stripe pattern across your bars. Or don't. That's a lot of sugar, and you don't really need it.
Now all you have to do is leave it alone until it cools. Most of the cereal bar recipes I have seen say to put it in the fridge to cool it. I would suggest, leaving it sit out at room temperate for an hour or so. The refrigerator will moisturize your cereal and make your bars stale. Let them cool at room temperature and you will create crispy bars!
If you just can't wait ... put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. That might make them easier to cut. leave them in for an hour, and that will make them impossible to cut.
Step 9: Distribution
It's likely that you will end up a few bars short while packaging them. Especially if the kids are helping you!
Pull your bars out of the pan (they should come out easily in one big heap) and lay them onto a cutting board. Get that big knife and start carving them up. You don't have to be consistent if you don't want to. You are aiming for something about 1 X 1 X 3 inches. If you have trouble getting them out of the pan, use more cooking spray or grease next time.
Eat a couple, and find some way to store the rest of them. I suggest sharing them with your family, friends, the work crowd, or whoever is around at the time. You can wrap them in plastic. You can put them in plastic containers. You can sell them on the street corner. You get the idea.
I hope you enjoy making and eating these.
Please share your recipe modifications!