Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Review: 5 Steps to Healthy Cooking...Featuring Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars

I recently received some cookbooks to review from my friends at Robert Rose Publishing. Last week, I shared a recipe for yummy slow cooker Filipino Adobo Chicken from one of the cookbooks. Today, I have another great cookbook from their spring catalog to share with you: 5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking. Most of us know that we need to be cooking and eating healthier, but knowing exactly how to go about doing that can be frustrating and confusing. Author Camilla Saulsbury takes away the guesswork and makes cooking healthy delicious and fun! She shares the following five steps in the book, which are both simple and flexible:
  • Choose fresh, whole foods
  • Eat mostly vegetable- and fruit-based foods
  • Opt for healthy fats and proteins
  • Select superfoods (nutrient-dense foods)
  • Eat more whole grains
The cookbook provides 500 recipes from appetizers to dessert -- and everything in between -- that incorporate one or more of these five healthy cooking steps. Looking through the book, it quickly becomes apparent that eating healthy can also taste great! The recipes are divided into easy-to-navigate chapters...and each recipe features nutrition information AND insight into which health step(s) the recipe helps you meet. So many great recipes caught my eye, but I decided to focus on one health habit that I need to improve: eating breakfast.

Most days, if I do eat breakfast, I have yogurt or piece of fruit. I really should be eating more whole grains for sustained energy to take me to lunch. I also normally eat breakfast at my desk, so it has to be portable and easy to eat. I knew I had found just what I was looking for when I saw the recipe for Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars! Portable, easy to eat...and it helps me meet Steps 2-5 above. That's a whole lot of goodness in a compact form! I love granola bars, but most commercial varieties have a lot of sugar. These granola bars feature rolled oats and oat bran for fiber, dried cranberries and coconut, plus natural peanut butter and honey.  

Chewy Cranberry Granola Bars
from 5 Easy Steps to Healthy Cooking

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350. Add the following ingredients to a large bowl: 1 3/4 cups rolled oats, 1/4 cup oat bran, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 cup unsweetened flake coconut, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Stir well to combine.

Step 2:  Whisk the following ingredients in a small bowl or large measuring cup: 3/4 cup honey, 1/3 cup natural peanut butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 6 tbs. coconut oil (or vegetable oil). Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl and stir until everything is evenly combined.

Step 3: Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil. Press the granola mixture firmly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking. The granola should be browned at the edges and still slightly soft in the center. Let the granola cool completely, then remove by lifting the foil liner from the pan. Peel off foil and cut into 12-15 bars. These bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to five days. 

Each granola bar has 238 calories, 13 grams of fat (the good kind!), and 3 grams of fiber. That's enough to give me the energy I need to make it through my busy work morning! These bars are just sweet enough thanks to the addition of honey to the mixture...and the peanut butter flavor is very subtle. By not using sugar, the natural nutty flavor of the oats and tangy chewiness of the dried cranberries are able to take center stage. I love that I can make a batch of these on Sunday afternoon and have breakfast or after-works snacks for the rest of the week! All I have to do is grab a piece of fruit or container of yogurt to pair with this granola for a filling and healthy breakfast.

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