Oatmeal Raisin Granola Bars

Oatmeal Raisin granola bars on Whisk Together

Book Update: I just finished reading “The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer” by Gretchen Reynolds.  If you have received up to date workout videos or training, then some of the information is not completely new.  However, much of the information shed light on what is going on biologically.

One, the first 20 minutes of any workout are important given the fact that premature death is reduced by 20%.  After 20 minutes, the gains (in regards to premature death) are minimal.

Two, men who are sedentary for 5+ hours per day (watching TV, driving, etc.) and workout still saw the same premature death rates as men who didn’t workout.  Apparently, working out in short intervals did not make up for the fact that the men were sedentary for so much of the day.

Three, mice that were designed to have a short lifespan died right on schedule over and over again…. unless they exercised.  The mice that exercised had huge anti-aging benefits.

Four, old school stretching is out.  Dynamic stretching is in.  The stuff we did in school like touching our toes in our “warm up”?  Not good!  And yes, you need to warm up.

Five, exercise is useless for weight loss.  This totally makes sense to anyone who passed 2nd grade math.  Burn 200 calories exercising… you get hungry and eat an extra cookie.  Boom, the 200 calorie burn is gone. However!  It helps a LOT when trying to maintain that weight loss!  This explains why I haven’t gained any weight in two years since I lost 70 pounds.

Six, effects of exercise on the brain were crazy.  We used to be told that we were born with all the brain cells we will ever have and never make anymore…. But, this simply isn’t true.  People do make more brain cells and those that exercise produce brain cells that even help is stress reduction and anger management.

Seven, I have read many times to drink water constantly.  You see photos of weird water bottles all over Pinterest in order to keep you “hydrated”.  But this is simply another myth.  You get thirsty – you drink.  Your body knows what it needs and doesn’t need to be super-hydrated.  Interestingly enough, no one has ever died in a marathon from dehydration.  But, one woman did die of too much water – called hyponatremia.

Eight, to determine how strong you are, try the simply push up test.  And, we mean full body (not on your knees) push ups.  Your average 40 year old man should be able to do 27 push ups and a woman should be able to do 16 of them.  You add 10 push-ups to every 10 years before age 40 and take away 5 push ups every 10 years over age 40.

Nine, you can’t do much of anything about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).  Massages and ice baths don’t work!

Ten, sedentary people on an Atkins diet did lose weight – but none of it around their midsections.  Their risk for heart disease actually went up despite losing weight.  However, when they started exercising, the Atkins dieters had the same healthy blood flow as the American Heart Association diet group.  They also lost weight around their midsection.
Eleven, to increase fat burning, exercise before you eat in the morning.  Since you have been “fasting” at night, your body has no quick carbs to burn.  Now, it might not help “lose” weight necessarily, but will help maintain weight.

Twelve, there is no “afterburn” in regards to calories when most of us workout.  I was sad to read this.  To get increase your metabolism: long and hard workouts are the way to go.  Simply walking will simply burn the calories it uses up – nothing more.

Thirteen, weight training may be more effective against diabetes than endurance.

Fourteen, chocolate milk is the BEST post-workout drink.

Fifteen, when doing a study with cyclists, the scientists were able to push them just by making them think they can work harder and go farther.  It’s all in your head!  I’ve heard this before including from my marathon neighbor.  She’s right!

Interesting stuff!

Recipe Update: My friend Mary and I held a “granola bar” making playdate!  We made the trail mix granola bars that are really popular with kids and these granola bars as well.  I have friends adapt the trail mix bars to use dark chocolate and almonds among other variations with great results!  As long as you keep your liquid to dry ratio the same, then the end product will work out.  In other words, as long as 1/2 cup of almonds are replaced with 1/2 cup of walnuts, then it works out great.

Oatmeal Raisin Granola Bars
makes 12 thick bars; 24 thinner bars

2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar (I may try only 1/2 cup next time)
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or substitute AP flour)
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg
1/2 cup applesauce (or substitute canola/vegetable/grapeseed oil)
2 tsp. vanilla

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  I used 2 – loaf pans (9×5) that gave us thick bars as in the photo or you can use a 9×13 pan to give you thinner bars.  Spray with baker’s joy, cooking spray or grease.
3.  In a great big bowl, mix your dry stuff:  oats, brown sugar, ground flaxseed, cinnnamon, flour, raisins and salt.
4.  Now add the wet stuff to the middle of the dry stuff:  honey, egg, applesauce and vanilla.
5.  Stir that all up until it is thoroughly combined.
6.  Dump the granola bar mixture into the pan (s) and pat down.
7.  Bake the 9×13 pan for 30-35 minutes.  Bake the 9×5 loaf pans for about 35-40 minutes.  At 30 minutes, the loaf pans were not quite done all the way in the middle even though the toothpick came out clean.
8.  Cut these up into bars after they have rest a few minutes.  Then, cool completely.  Then – EAT!


Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Banana Bread Breakfast Bars

Banana Bread Breakfast Bars_3CR

Book update:  I started “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn which is supposed to be a huge hit, but even set in good, ol’ Missouri it isn’t doing anything for me.  I’m only on page 20 though and I’m sick with a cold, so maybe I’m just irritable because of the sinus headache.  I should have known – I get a cold EVERY year for the past three years right before auditions.  This year we are doing “Oklahoma.”

This week in Positive Psychology we are talking about subjective well-being.  Here is where a lot of my disagreements with the field probably shine through.  Not everyone can be an optimist – and not everyone should be.  I don’t want the FBI agent protecting some kid to believe “everything will turn out just fine.”  I want them to go through every bloody scenario that could possibly happen and try to plan for it.  One of the 14 Fundamentals to being happy per Dr. Michael Fordyce is lowering your expectations.  True… it might make you happier.  But, would that help our society as a whole?

Recipe: We LOVED these breakfast bars.  Cheap, easy to make and taste great.  I had all the stuff I needed for them in my pantry.  Most the breakfast bars I see have peanut butter in them.  I think peanut butter went up in price and we have been using gobs of it to make our own Trail Mix Granola Bars.  These breakfast bars, however, are baked so they stay together very well at room temperature.  I thought the brown sugar topping got a little soft after a couple days, but they were still VERY tasty right out of the oven and tasty several days later.  I’m excited to make these again using pureed pumpkin from a can with a little more cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Fast and easy snack or breakfast.

For followers, I have updated the Pumpkin Cake Pops tutorial and made some notes to the Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes recipe.

Banana Bread Breakfast Bars
yield 8 bars

1 ripe banana mashed (or 1/3 cup puree banana or puree pumpkin)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tb. honey
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. brown sugar + 1 tsp. brown sugar, divided
2 cups rolled oats
2 Tb. ground flaxseed (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 8×8 or 9×9 pan, or line a pan with nonstick foil.
2.  In a big bowl, mix:  mashed banana, applesauce, honey, egg white, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and 1 Tb. brown sugar.
3.  Add the oats and flaxseed.  Mix to combine.
4.  Press the mixture into the pan.  Sprinkle that 1 tsp. of brown sugar on top.  Truthfully, I just sprinkled some brown sugar on top to cover the bars with a light coat.  Use as much or as little as you like.
5.  Bake it for 30 minutes.
6.  Cool your bars and then cut.  Wrap in saran wrap or store in a sealed container.

Banana Bread Breakfast Bars_1CR

Recipe from The Svelte Gourmet

Trail Mix Granola Bars

trail mix barsCR

trail mix bars_4CR

Books I’m reading:  “Wait for Me” (a free Kindle book) and “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger.  “Peace Like a River” is a really good story with a lot of literary devices (symbols, themes, foreshadowing, etc.).  Though the devices and the style make the book not exactly conversational and a breeze to read through, I still found the story compelling and the characters really interesting.  This is our book club book for the month of January.  “Wait for Me” is just fun 🙂

The Recipe:  I love love love the trail mix granola bars at Trader Joe’s.  They are a little expensive…. $2.29 for a box of 6, and they are a 35 minute drive from my house.  So, until I get out to Chesterfield, Missouri, I will make these.  I have tried two or three no-bake granola bar recipes, but the entire family would never eat them.  I really liked these.  They were gooey, crunchy, salty, sweet all in one bite.  Even my two year old could help make them!  My kids are constantly asking for me to make them.  Feel free to add your own fixin’s.  I liked chocolate chips and dried cherries myself.

Trail Mix Granola Bars
yield 24 servings (when cut the size of a regular Quaker Oat granola bar)

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup crisp rice cereal (like Rice Krispies or Trader Joe’s Crispy Rice)
1/3 cup dried fruit (dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
1/3 cup mini m&ms
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts (or sunflower seeds or salted peanuts?)
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup peanut butter

1.  Prep a baking dish that you want to put your granola bars in.  For thicker bars, try a 7×11 or a couple of bread pans.  For thinner bars, a 13×9 will work.  Grease the pan or lay down non-stick foil.

2.  In a great big bowl:  mix the oats, rice cereal, dried fruit, m&ms, chocolate chips, and peanuts.  Stir all together with a large spatula.  Have the spatula close and handy!

3.  In a medium microwave safe bowl:  Mix the honey and peanut butter.  Microwave for 30-45 seconds.  Stir until it is thoroughly mixed.

4.  Pour your honey mixture into the oat mixture.  Now, quick!  Coat the oat mixture with the honey mixture.  This is easier to do while it is still hot.

5.  Once coated, press the mixture into your prepared pan.  You can grease your hands and press.  I like to take cling wrap and wrap that around the bottom of a bread pan.  Then, I use that to press the bars into the pan really hard.  This is necessary for the bars to stick together.

6.  Cover and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  Cut and enjoy!!  Do not attempt before one hour or they will be a crumbly, honey gooey mess.  Still tasty, though.  Like many homemade granola bars, freezing these for a little while helps them stick together.

To store:  I left these in the fridge since they seemed chewier that way.  But since all the ingredients can be stored at room temperature separately, I believe they would keep just fine on the kitchen counter.  Now to go and buy massive amounts of honey at Costco…  (5 lb jar is $12.79 or 16 cents per ounce)

Recipe adapted from Bran Appetit

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