Thursday, July 02, 2015

Homemade KIND bars - my own recipe, far cheaper and healthier - Part I

I had lots of fun yesterday creating my own version of the KIND nut bars that you can buy at Starbucks. I buy them occasionally when I need a snack, but not very often, because they're crazy expensive - $2 for a tiny 40 gram bar, which comes out to $22.68 a pound - yikes! 
To develop my recipe, I cannibalized some of the recipes that can be found online (for instance, Homemade KIND Bars), but I modified them to make the process a little easier. 
Are these bars nutritionally better than just a handful of nuts and raisins? Not really. Actually, if you're trying to eat less sugar, they're probably a little bit worse. But there's the fun and convenience factor of having a bar instead of a handful of nuts, and also making something so much cheaper than the store bought version. Nutritionally, mine have less sugar than the chocolate dipped version, which most of them are. 
Here's my recipe. This is for about 6 bars, somewhat larger than the original.
Ingredients:
¼ cup sugar
⅛ cup corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt (or more, depending on whether nuts are not salted)
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup roasted peanuts
½ cup roasted almonds
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
½ cup dried cranberries
Instructions:
Microwave the first 4 ingredients for 30 seconds, to make it easier to stir the sugar and corn syrup together
Stir, then add the last 4 ingredients
Microwave for 30 seconds, stir
Microwave for 30 seconds, stir
Stir, then quickly empty to a cookie sheet covered with tin foil.
Spread out the mixture and flatten it out, until it looks like this:

Let the mixture cool somewhat, then cut it into bars and put it into snack-sized baggies. I store them in the freezer. The nuts stick together well with the sugar syrup.


And voila! I estimate the cost on this bar to be about 25 cents. This is based on costs at my favorite grocery store, Winco. They have the best and cheapest bulk section around - for instance, roasted peanuts for about $1.60 a pound. 
Note that you can use any type of dried fruit, nut or seed. Since taking these pictures, I've made this recipe again, but this time using parched wheat instead of sunflower seeds, to add a toasted flavor. 
The next time I make the recipe, I'll cook the sugar syrup a little more before adding the nut mixture - I want to see what happens when the sugar gets to a higher temperature. And I'm planning on tripling the size of the recipe, which means I'll need to increase the cook times. 
I think I'll also try seeing how little sugar syrup I can get away with. All I really need is enough to keep the nut mixture from falling apart. Less sugar would be better.
One more note - storing nuts in the freezer is an absolute MUST if you buy in bulk. Otherwise they can go rancid in a surprisingly short time. I've never had nuts go rancid in the freezer.
The original KIND bars use brown rice syrup and honey to bind the nuts together. They're just as nutritionally empty as sugar, so I'll just stick with sugar, which is cheaper and easier to find. 
Here's a picture of my first attempt. It's basically a clump of sugar syrup with a few nuts adhering to the outside. It's also why I switched to mixing the sugar mix with the nut mix before I finish - it's a lot easier to stir.


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