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Susan and Ted Axelrod

Susan and Ted are a writer and photographer team who met while working for a magazine — Susan reviewing restaurants and writing food features, Ted photographing them. When Ted left the magazine for a freelance career, they launched their blog, Spoon & Shutter in 2010 as a way to keep doing what they love, together. After many years in Northern New Jersey, they are thrilled to be living in Maine, where Ted's clients occasionally include restaurants and food businesses. When they're not working, cooking, rehabbing their old farmhouse or hanging out with their two cool dogs – Ella and Dixie – they're having a blast exploring this spectacular state. To reach Susan, email saxelrod [at] mainetoday.com or follow her on Twitter: @susansaxelrod To reach Ted, email ted [at] axelrodphotography.com or follow him on Twitter @TedAxelRodPhoto .

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Posted: October 8, 2014

Homemade and healthy breakfast bars for busy mornings

Written by: Susan and Ted Axelrod
All photos by Susan Axelrod

Homemade Breakfast Bars. All photos by Susan Axelrod

I’ve developed a deep affection for the breakfast bars at Portland’s Aurora Provisions, which often fit the bill when I don’t have time to make breakfast at home. Generously sized, wonderfully sticky squares of oats, dried fruits and nuts, they keep me full all morning.

But I don’t even want to know their nutritional breakdown, since all that goodness undoubtedly comes at a hefty calorie cost.

With that nagging thought in mind — plus the fact that in a couple of weeks, we’re moving from our apartment in the West End to a house in Yarmouth and Aurora will sadly no longer be a convenient morning stop — I tried my hand at making a facsimile at home.

First, I did a little research on Pinterest (“little” is code for obsessive and exhaustive, ahem …) but didn’t find anything that included all the elements I wanted: heavy on the oats, dried fruit, banana, honey and maybe a little almond butter for protein. I like my breakfast bars soft and chewy, like a firm bowl of oatmeal, not granola-bar crunchy.

A lone, blackening banana sitting in the fruit bowl provided the base. I mashed it well, then stirred in almond butter, honey, coconut oil and an egg, for binding and extra protein. Then the dry ingredients: organic rolled oats, dried cranberries, coconut (both of these were sweetened, because they were what I had on hand) and chopped, toasted almonds.

Breakfast bar batter.

Breakfast bar batter.

The bars were just what I was hoping for — nicely chewy, lightly sweet and full of fruit and nuts. I ran the recipe through nutrition-analysis software and was disappointed (shocked might be a better word) to discover that the calorie and fat count was way higher than I had hoped — 385 calories and 16 grams of fat — for a pretty small bar. Minus the coconut oil it came in at 330 calories and 11.4 grams of fat. With egg, almond butter and honey, the oil is not necessary, so that’s the recipe I’ve given you below.

These bars may not be Weight Watchers friendly. But they still make a great breakfast, are super-easy to put together, and highly adaptable — swap in peanut butter for the almond butter, raisins for the cranberries, peanuts for the almonds,  you get the idea. They don’t taste health-foodie in the slightest, so kids should love them, too.

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Susan’s Breakfast Bars

Makes: 9 bars

1 ripe banana
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 350

Butter a 8 or 9-inch square baking pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash the banana with a fork. Stir in the almond butter, honey and egg, mixing until well combined.

Add the oats, coconut, cranberries and almonds; mix well.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and using moistened hands, press it into the pan until it is evenly distributed.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are brown and the center is firm.

Let cool completely before cutting.

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