I've been looking for a healthy protein/granola bar in the local supermarkets that is free of gluten, casein, soy, and oats. This has proven to be quite a challenge. Most granola bars contain oats, and protein bars often contain casein or soy.
Recently, my allergic child was wishfully dreaming of eating a Clif Bar, one of the many protein bars on supermarket shelves. I perused the ingredient label and not only were oats one of the ingredients, but soy was prominently featured in the form of soy protein isolate, roasted soybeans and organic soy flour, all of which my son is allergic to. In fact, one package I picked up did not list soy as an ingredient, yet footnoted that the product contained soy.
For food allergies, reading food labels is critical as they can be life threatening in some cases. One friend whose daughter is allergic to gluten purchased a "gluten-free" granola bar. Her daughter suffered a seizure after eating the granola bar, so scary! After calling the company, my friend was informed that in fact the granola bar had barley malt in it, which contains gluten. Unfortunately, you can't rely on "gluten-free" labels on store-bought products. Reading the ingredient label carefully is the best way to ensure no allergens are used. Of course, the best way to ensure safe eating is to make your own granola bars, which is what I set out to do.
Recently, I came across a recipe for Homemade Clif Bars on Enlightened Cooking, and decided to try it, tweaking it to meet my son's allergy needs. Instead of quick-cooking oats (he's allergic to oats), I used quinoa flakes which resemble quick-cooking oats in shape, size and texture. I had originally bought these quinoa flakes to make a hot breakfast cereal; however, my son turned his nose down at the quinoa flake porridge due to an off-taste when cooked. However, in this recipe for gluten-free granola bars, these quinoa flakes work perfectly.
This recipe is so flexible as you can use any dried fruits, nuts and nut butters that you like. My son has an almond allergy as well, so I used chopped walnuts and cashew nut butter.
I also threw in a few dairy/soy-free mini chocolate chips for fun. The best part about this recipe is that these bars don't need to be baked - that's right, just mix well, pat in a lightly oiled pan, cover and refrigerate. The bar mixture is held together with brown rice syrup and the nut butter.
My kids all loved these bars, and I am thrilled to have added another granola bar to my repertoire. The funny thing is that one of my older boys found it quite humorous that my little guy actually wanted a Clif Bar, as he thought these No-Bake Gluten-Free "Clif" Granola Bars were far better.
No-Bake Gluten/Oat/Casein/Soy-Free "Clif" Granola Bars
Adapted from Enlightened Cooking. I've used quinoa flakes instead of oatmeal in this recipe due to an oatmeal allergy. This recipe is so versatile as you can change up the dried fruits, nuts, and nut butters depending on your own preferences or allergy needs.
1 1/4 cups gluten-free brown rice cereal
1 cup quinoa flakes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/4 cup dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, raisins, cherries)
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds)
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup gluten-free brown rice syrup (make sure it doesn't contain barley malt)
1/2 cup nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan. Tear a piece of parchment paper just large enough to cover the pan.
Combine the brown rice cereal, quinoa flakes, flaxseed, dried fruit, coconut, nuts and chocolate chips in a large bowl.
Combine the brown rice syrup, and nut butter in a microwavable bowl and heat until just melted, about 30-60 seconds. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour nut butter over cereal mixture and stir well with a spatula. Now comes the messy part. Dig your hands into the cereal mixture and mix everything together really well.
Pour mixture into greased 8-inch pan. Place the sheet of parchment paper on top of the pan and press down firmly to bind ingredients. Refrigerate at least one hour.
Cut into bars and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
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