Peanut butter is the ultimate kid food. From sandwiches made with little jammy hands to apple slices dipped into a creamy mess, peanut butter makes up its own kid food group. Unfortunately, right now we are in the midst of a major peanut butter recall. It’s on the news all the time and grocery store shelves have gaping holes where peanut butter items once sat. Even dog treats are being recalled.
But families should take heart. Except for a few brands of peanut butter I have never heard of (such as King Nut and Parnell’s Pride), the recall is mainly for processed foods made with a mass-produced peanut butter paste. According to the FDA’s web site, “Major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall.” This is why jars of peanut butter still sit ready for purchase at your local store. From Jif and Peter Pan to organic creamy and crunchy, those jars are still available and deemed safe by the FDA for consumption. If you don’t believe me, listen to Dr. Stephen Sundlof of the FDA.
But what do you do if your kids love peanut butter granola bars — which are definitely on the recall list –like mine do? Each week I break my no-trash lunch rule and buy individually wrapped Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars because my kids just can’t get enough of them. They are the preferred treat for snack time after recess, and I like that they give my daughters both protein and carbs, which in turn gives them the energy to continue sitting and learning until lunch arrives. Yes, I hate the wrappers, but what’s one little wrapper (each), I ask myself?
Well, those granola bars disappeared from our pantry and my daughters lunches after the recall was announced. I tried to substitute their favorite treat with everything from yogurt and granola, to blueberry breakfast bars (more wrappers!) and extra fruit. After a couple of weeks of having my kids doggedly ask each morning if they could have their favorite peanut butter granola bar — “Is the recall over Mommy?” — I gave up and decided to make them myself. I had a large jar of organic peanut butter sitting in my refrigerator. We’d made our way through about a 1/3 of it by the time the recall was announced, so I knew it was safe as we’d all been eating it and no one had gotten sick. Plus it wasn’t on the recall list.
As I no longer had a box of the beloved Trader Joe’s bars, I had no idea what they contained, so struck out on my own. I opted for using granola — you can purchase some or make your own — to get a nice crunch and added an equal amount of puffed rice for added crunch and also a little chewiness. I really wanted a nice nutty flavor, so recommend crunch peanut butter if you have it. And, because I needed the whole thing to stick together, I threw in a healthy dollop of gooey honey. Finally I added some chocolate chips, because who doesn’t love chocolate with peanut butter?
The resulting bar was, according to my husband, hands-down better than the store-bought variety. My daughters, on the other hand, thought it tasted almost as good. The proof, however, was in the fact that they each devoured their bar and then asked for more. If you are avoiding peanut products all together, you can still enjoy this recipe with cashew or almond butter.
I then began to wonder how difficult it would be to make baked granola bars. I loosely based my first batch on my Nut and Fruit Oatcakes recipe, but without the leftover steel-cut oats, it was a bit dry. After adding some corn syrup and also honey, the recipe turned out moist with a nice texture. Unlike the first recipe, I think this one tastes better with almond butter, so you don’t even need to worry about the peanut butter recall. If you prefer peanut butter, however, that would also work just as well.
No-Bake Peanut, Cashew, or Almond Butter Granola Bars
Makes 12 Bars
1 cup granola
1 cup dried puffed rice (such as Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup chunky peanut, cashew, or almond butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped slightly salted peanuts, cashews, or almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1. Mix granola, puffed rice, nuts and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate, microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanut or almond butter and honey and then microwave for 30 seconds. If you don’t want to use a microwave, you can heat these in a pot on the stove on low.
3. Thoroughly mix the peanut butter and honey after it is warmed and add to the granola mixture.
4. Stir until all the granola and puffed rice is evenly coated with the peanut butter and honey.
5. Spray a 9 x 9 square pan with oil.
6. Press the granola/peanut butter mixture into the pan, making sure it is even on all sides.
7. Refrigerate for at least an hour, but preferably longer, so the bars set.
8. Cut the bars into four rows and then make one horizontal cut down the middle so you end up with 12 bars.
9. Keep bars refrigerated until ready to eat.
Note: Some whole peanuts are on the recall list, so be sure the ones you purchase are safe to eat.
Dried Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
Makes 18 – 24 bars
2 cups oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup walnuts, almonds or cashews
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots or peaches
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix oats, wheat flour, baking powder, nuts and dried fruit in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix the eggs, peanut butter, brown sugar, honey and oil using the paddle whip in an electric mixer.
4. Mix in the dried ingredients.
5. Line a 13 x 9 inch pan with parchment paper sprayed with oil or just spray with oil.
6. Press the oat mixture into the pan, making sure it’s even on all sides.
7. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
8. Cool and then cut into bars to serve.