Saturday, October 2, 2010

L.L. Bean Trail Bars: Two Ways...or Maybe More

 Nathanael is taking a wetland plant taxonomy class this semester. They have field trips on many of the weekends, which is a little bit of a bummer for Nathanael's cramped schedule, but he enjoys the interesting excursions nonetheless. The students are required to collect and press 25 herbarium quality plant specimens by the end of the course, but Nathanael has already collected more than enough even though they are not yet halfway through the semester. Preserving species is pretty invigorating once you get into it, and I know that sounds very nerdy, but it isn't really. It is more of a pleasure in understanding your surroundings I think.
  When Nathanael goes on these all day trips into the southern heat we are nearly always out of bread. So he usually requests oat cakes and I fill a container with fruit and vegetables, but I also make him a more outdoorsy snack to satisfy his hunger. So far trail bars have been just the thing.
      Today I would like to share with you this recipe, which is rather drab in terms of color, and probably also not the most healthy thing you have ever eaten...but that is what makes it tasty. Alright, it does involve prunes and an assortment of grains, so it has those things going for it at least. The real reason I am posting this recipe is because various members of my family have been searching for it at a given time, and since I have finally found it, I want others who are looking to be able to find it too. (There are other versions on the internet, but they are not all alike.)
My Mom cut this recipe out of an L.L. Bean catalog some time in the nineties, which I think is unusual because I don't think I have ever seen recipes appear in that catalog on any other occasion. There was a picture, which made the baked trail bars look like granola bars, but when my mom made them they looked like fiber filled brownies. However, when I (at long last) rediscovered the recipe I made one batch that looked like hers, and one batch that looked like granola bars. But, both were delicious and each one accompanied Nathanael as he collected plants. (I include the instructions for each outcome below.)
   You may be skeptical of prunes, but I would like to assure you that prunes complement chocolate wonderfully without being loud in their own flavor. If you are a big fan of original powerbars, make the brownie-like variation (they are not just like power bars, but reminiscent of them), and if you are more of a chewy granola bar person, make the original version. I have substituted almost all of the ingredients at one time or another, so just make these with what you have or see my ideas below.


L.L. Bean Trail Bars (original recipe)
Dry Ingredients
1c. quick oats
1 c. flour
1/2c. wheat germ
3 Tbs sesame seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/4c. chopped walnuts

Wet ingredients
1/4c. sunflower oil
2 Tbs. maple syrup
1/2 c. honey
2/3c. chocolate chips

Later addition
1/4c. baby food prunes

In one bowl mix wet ingredients thoroughly, in another mix the wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry mixtures, and the baby food prunes. Spread into a greased 8 by 8 inch pan and bake for 20 minutes at 375 F.
Cut into bars while warm.

Brownie-like variation
Heat wet ingredients together in a saucepan until the chocolate chips are melted. Cool slightly, add to dry mixture and stir in baby food prunes. Spread into a greased 8 by 8 inch pan and bake for 20 minutes at 375 F. Cut into bars while warm.

Alternate ingredients
old fashioned oats instead of quick
the addition of any puffed or rolled grains instead of portions of the oats
whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, or gluten free flours because rising is not important here
flax meal instead of wheat germ (or just skip the wheat germ)
your choice of nuts instead of sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and walnuts
canola oil instead of sunflower
additional honey instead of maple syrup
chocolate chunks instead of chips


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