Uncle Sam Redux: Granola Bars

September 13, 2010

Sometimes, life just gets strange in BlogLand. Sometimes you put something random and weird out there and poof!  A response wafts out of the ether that you never would have expected.

A while back, I wrote this post about my “quirky” step-grandfather, and a few days later, I got an email from a lovely woman named Anneliese, who just happens to work for the company that churns out Uncle Sam cereal. You know, my step-grandfather’s crack breakfast.

As a food blogger (well, a sometimes food blogger, because sometimes I write about cats or prolific quantities of vomit or other drek) I get a lot of emails offering to send me free food/products. And I almost always turn those offers down, because they’re a promotional vehicle and I just don’t feel comfortable doing product endorsements.

But this email was different, because Anneliese had actually read the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffin post–which, let’s face it, was poking a leeeetle fun at the elderly and their “elimination issues”–and thought it was hilarious. She thought I was hilarious. And told me so.

Boom. She got me right there. Anyone who tells me I’m funny? Immediately in my good books.

Anneliese’s curiosity was piqued: she wanted more information on Henry Vermillion. What kind of man was he? What was the story of his romance with my grandmother? How long did he remain addicted to Uncle Sam cereal? Would I be willing to write a little ditty about Henry, and could she plop it up on the Uncle Sam website as a testimonial to the efficacy of their product?

I said sure.  And I said sure not just because she flattered me, or because I thought Henry would be the perfect endorsement for Uncle Sam (which he is). I said sure because talking with Anneliese gave me a flashback to an encounter with a woman at BlogHer ’10.

Just to let you know, at BlogHer ’10, there were some severe elevator issues. 2400 women, under one roof, all trying to get back to their hotel rooms during a before-dinner break? Elevator clusterf@!&, ladies and gents. Sometimes it took 15 minutes to get anywhere, and sometimes it took that long to even find an open elevator.

During one such instance, I was waiting for an elevator on the 22nd floor with a young, pretty, very well-dressed woman. She asked me if it was my first time at BlogHer (I must have had that overwhelmed, glassy-eyed look) and we struck up a conversation. Turns out, she wasn’t a blogger. She was working the Expo Floor. In the booth shilling Metamucil. As in, pimping out free samples of granulated fiber to any blogger in her path.

Being the mature adult child that I am, I got the giggles. Then she got the giggles. We talked a little bit about the difficulty of her job. I mean, who wants to be The Lady Who Has to Sexify Metamucil? That’s a job, folks. Still, she was enthusiastic and very good-humored and I happily took several free packets of Metamucil because when I travel, I get issues. In fact, I’d heard several women at the conference talk about that very same phenomenon. I know that sounds bizarre, but put 12 women together in an elevator for 15 minutes and there’s a lot of sharing going on–even oversharing.

I didn’t run into the Metamucil lady again during the conference, but I thought of her when I corresponded with Anneliese. High fiber cereal isn’t exactly a sexy sell either, is it? And yet, like the Metamucil lady, Anneliese was young and hip and funny and earnest about doing her job.

So when she asked me if she could also send me a box of Uncle Sam cereal to mess around with (recipe-wise), I said sure. Actually, I think I said something along the lines of, “Oh my God, that is freaking hilarious. Send me that box now!”

My husband works long hours and used to snack on things like Snickers bars and Doritos until he married me, the Food Nazi. He has high cholesterol, and I, the buzzkiller of snacking habits, now pack him things like apples and hummus and granola bars to nosh on at work. Now I’m not a total shrew; sometimes I’ll pack him a granola bar with chocolate in it or a peanut butter cookie. One thing he gets excited about in particular is a Kashi granola bar that’s topped with dark chocolate and coconut. When I pack him one of those, he skips a little out the door.

I decided to put my box of Uncle Sam to work on a reasonable facsimile of his favorite lunchbox snack. I riffled through my ginormous pile of recipes and came across a recipe for Swag Bars from Cooking Light magazine. I thought the recipe had promise, but I had some reservations. For one, the original recipe called for corn syrup, which I’m trying to limit in our diet. I know the jury isn’t out yet on the stuff, but I’m suspicious.

Also, the pairing of peanuts and peanut butter seemed a little too peanutty in my opinion, and my husband prefers almonds, anyways. And that parsimonious chocolate drizzle called for in the Cooking Light recipe was not going to do it, so I tinkered with that.

Hubs and I are pretty pleased with the resulting “granola bars.”  He’s happily toting them to work and snacking on them, and until the nurses start complaining about his increased time in the bathroom, we’re keeping them. Added bonus? The punch of fiber and protein in these bars really keep him going until lunch; he’s shocked that he no longer really needs a mid-morning snack. And I’m loving the fact that these bars are no-bake and incredibly easy.

Now I’m trying to figure out ways to sneak Uncle Sam into cookies and muffins, because the Minxes, with their propensity for “white food,” could use a little boost in the fiber department. The Fiber Wizard will keep you posted.

Uncle Sam Bars

loosely based on Swag Bars from Cooking Light Magazine

1 3/4 cups creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup honey

1 1/2 cups toasted almonds, finely chopped (I used the food processor)

3 1/2 cups (4 ounces) whole-grain flaked cereal, such as Uncle Sam, finely crushed (again, I used the food processor)

Cooking spray

4 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, melted (that’s what I used, but if you’re feeling racy, use 6 ounces)

Grated sweetened coconut, if desired

Combine peanut butter, sugar and honey in a heavy large  saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook 4 minutes or just until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and stir in chopped almonds and cereal until well blended. Press into a 9 by 9-inch baking pan, coated generously with cooking spray.

Chop the chocolate and put in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power for about a minute or until chocolate melts, stirring halfway through. After a minute, if chocolate isn’t melted, continue to cook, checking every 15 seconds, until melted. Spread over bars. Top with coconut, if desired, pressing slightly to make sure it adheres.

Score into small bars while still warm.

!!* A few things to note: These bars are dense, so cut them fairly small. Also, I popped them (while still in the pan) in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes before cutting into individual bars and it made things easier. Then I  wrapped each bar in plastic wrap and stored them in the refrigerator. Be sure to allow the bars to warm up a bit before you chomp into them! If you try to munch them immediately after refrigeration, you may crack a tooth…but they’re perfect when thrown in a lunch box or eaten with morning coffee after the drive to work.

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www July 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

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