Saturday, July 9, 2011

Grain-ola Bars

One of my favorite walks through Fairbanks is the annual Walk for Charity sponsored by the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. I love this walk for four reasons. #1-my $25 registration fee is 100% given to a local charity....I usually donate to the homeless shelter or Joel's Place (a safe haven for children who need a place to go). #2-I get to walk, laugh and talk with good friends. #3-I get walk and graze and sample appetizers and yummy things from local restaurants and, finally, #4-this is a great jump-start to my summer break.

Three years ago the BEST taste-teaser by far was provided by Chef Jamison from the Chena's Alaskan Grill. My comrades and I could not place what exactly the ingredients were and I usually pride myself in being able to take apart flavors and reconstruct it at a later time. This however was a conundrum. Jayne N., Sue B. and I could not figure out what that taste was.

A month later, I found myself with some time and stopped in at the restaurant and said I wanted to buy those granola bars/cookies or whatever you wanted to call them. The restaurant was not open yet and the chef himself came out to talk to me. I told him that his treat was the best by far on the walk and I wanted to buy them. Chef Jamison grinned an amicable grin and said that they were the best because they are created by God and that everything in them was natural and healthy and that he didn't take credit for any of it because every ingredient was whole, natural and had no preservatives. He also told me that he only made these special treats for his family and only once a year for the Walk for Charity and that he did not sell them, but would give me the recipe. **As a side note, these bars wrap nicely in plastic wrap and make a fabulous backpacking or hiking snack.

Wow! I was floored at his generosity in sharing his recipe for his treasured treat with a complete stranger. I had to laugh when I told him that my friends Jayne N., Sue B., and I could not pinpoint that ingredient that was so cleverly disguised. What was that taste????? Ginger! Crystalized Ginger! I was further impressed when he told me that everything in those bars was natural, no flour or gluten products, no eggs, whole grain, natural sugars and dried fruit. They are made from all natural ingredients, so plan on shopping in the natural foods section of your grocery store to get what you need. The coconut oil is a lovely light touch that is also a pleasant ghostly obscured taste.

Thank you Chef Jamison. Call and make your reservations today to eat at the Chena's Alaskan Grill located on the Chena River. But don't bother asking for his natural grain-ola need to join me for the Walk for Charity to get your taste or print out this recipe and make them yourself.

The Best Ever Grain-Ola Bars

1 TBSP Coconut Oil (to coat a baking sheet) You'll want to lightly coat your hands to work with the hot syrup and dry ingredients.

In a bowl combine the following:

1 1/2 C. Crispy Rice Cereal (Gluten free)
1/2 cup Oat Bran
1 C. walnuts, lightly chopped and toasted in a dry skillet only until the oil releases it's smell
1 1/4 C. Regular Oatmeal (NOT instant)
1/2 cup dried cranberries or a mix of cranberries and blueberries
2 TBSP. crystallized ginger, minced

The syrup:
1 C. Brown Rice Syrup
1/4 C. Natural cane sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. sea salt

1. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with coconut oil.

2. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet for about 3-4 minutes. Toss all dry ingredients, nuts and fruit together in a large bowl.

2. Boil the brown rice syrup, sugar, vanilla, and salt over medium heat for 4 minutes (stirring constantly).

3. Quickly add syrup to dry ingredients and mix together. It is very sticky. Pour onto the cookie sheet and press using lightly-oiled hands. Keep in mind you don't want them to thick or too thin 1/2" thickness is just about right. When cool, cut into bars and wrap in individual plastic wrap servings.

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