Play With Your Bars

Snack bars can run the gamut of snack foods. Easy to make and highly flexible, they’re a great option to experiment with if you have kids. Though often designed to be eaten at room temperature, they can include warm and tender variations fresh from the oven or chewy, frozen varieties perfect for summer. How you might play with bar-shaped snacks depends a lot on whether or not they require cooking.

Apply heat.

Bars that need to be baked fall under the category of “Let’s mostly make the recipe as written, yeah?” Leavening ratios, dough hydration, binding agents, and flour qualities all work together to create a finished product. With a little experience (and a little deeper reading on this blog), anyone can learn about, for example, using fruit puree to reduce sugar or oil, but it takes practice. If you’re cooking with kids who might have a lower tolerance for failed recipes, stick with the recipe as written for cooked snack bars.

How to Play

  • Get artsy! The zombie-themed bars below use a broccoli stem carved into a hand (best for teens or adults) and gravestones cut from cheese, but let you imagination run wild! Create pictures out of cut fruit. Build a garden of edible flowers and mint leaves. Stack firm bars into a house.
  • Spice is always an option for play. Warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger are great to play with in any bar. The stovetop carrot bars below are an amazing introduction to cardamom, and would be a great recipe to fiddle with spices.
Smoked Almond Granola Bars

Smoked Almond Granola Bars

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Yes, it's not Halloween, but use this as inspiration: how can you turn snack bars into works of art?

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Carrot Bars

Carrot Bars

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. Baking is classic with a bar snack, but you can make soft bars on the stovetop too.

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Don’t apply heat.

If heat isn’t in the recipe, the ingredients list can be more fun to play with. These are especially good if you don’t have all of the ingredients for a recipe on hand.

  • Sticky-Sweet: Out of dates? Try raisins. Or dried figs. Most dried fruit (maybe with a little soak in hot water) can be coaxed into serving as a sweet binder for a snack bar. Just watch out for dried fruits that have added sugars. They’re unnecessary and they’ll make your bar less likely to earn Guiding Stars.
  • Crunchy-Meat: By “meat,” I mean “substance.” You want something to give your fruit paste a good texture and fill you up. Unsalted seeds, nuts, and rolled oats all earn Guiding Stars and are ideal for bringing nutrition to your snack.
  • Good to Eat: Nuts and dates are nice, but to keep them from getting samey, you need a little pizzazz to make each bar a treat for your family. Maybe it’s spice, as mentioned above. Maybe it’s cocoa powder, lemon zest, or even a little sprinkling of dark chocolate chips.
Homemade Snack Bars

Homemade Snack Bars

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. Adding a little something special, like chocolate, to a basic bar can make it a fun treat.

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Chocolate Date Snack Bars

Chocolate Date Snack Bars

Three Guiding Stars iconThree Guiding Stars indicate the best nutritional value. This recipe has 5 ingredients and eats like a brownie.

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Do or don’t apply heat.

Consider this recipe a bonus bar that constitutes snack bar play in and of itself. We came across it as a frozen treat, but our team had wildly mixed reactions to eating it cold. We tried baking it for the heck of it, and that got another round of very mixed reactions. Either way you eat them, they’re a departure from mainstream American snacking, and you’re bound to have fun trying them…whether or not your family decides they belong in your snacking routine.

No-Bake Pecan Carrot Bars

No-Bake Pecan Carrot Bars

Two Guiding Stars iconTwo Guiding Stars indicate better nutritional value. This bar is all about picking your texture. It can be eaten frozen, baked, or at room temp.

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