One of my favorite things is getting free stuff. I have vague memories of a website I used to frequent, years ago, where one could select samples (one at a time) which would be mailed for evaluation. I was excited about everything from cat food for the cats we did not yet have, to tiny bottles of laundry soap that might, on a good day, wash a load of linen doll hankies in the bathroom sink.
Imagine my joy (seriously) when Foodbuzz started a program in which their featured publishers are occasionally sent samples of items not yet on the market. Of course, this means that they will not be sending me an entire black truffle or a mangosteen to check out, but they did send me six granola bars. Six! The bars in question are called Quaker True Delights, and they come in Dark Chocolate Raspberry Almond, Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry, and Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut flavors. No old school Chocolate Chip or Peanut Butter in this line.
There was also a contest for recipes using at least one of the ingredients in the bars. Since I am a competitive overachiever who does not always follow directions well, I missed the “one ingredient” part of the contest and assumed that the actual granola bars had to be used in the recipe. I made a plan: we would have a tasting, and I would find something creative to cook using granola bars. Cornish Game Hens with Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry stuffing? Wild-Caught King Salmon with Miso and Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut Topping? The possibilities seemed endless.
Sam wouldn’t try the granola bars because they all had nuts in them, and Rob just doesn’t like granola bars. I could have forced the issue, but the Bataan Death March of tastings seemed inconsistent with the sort of happy and healthy image of granola bars. On mature reflection, the culinary possibilities also seemed either repulsive or tedious. Most savory foods are not improved by the addition of granola bars. Fish with a coconut macadamia coating might be okay, but not banana. Some folks might like poultry with a stuffing or coating featuring roast cashews and berries, but at my house there is a prohibition against “meat and red fruit” which meant that, if I experimented with that theory, I would be cooking endless batches of chicken which no one else would even taste. If I made something sweet using the bars, it sort of seemed like cheating – all of the flavor would come from the ingredients selected and packaged by Quaker, and I would only be creating a vessel in the form of a cake, a muffin, a cookie or a quick bread. The box of granola bars languished in the pantry, and I forgot about the contest.
When I discovered the box stuffed behind an aging package of Saltines, I decided that , although I had missed the boat (and misunderstood the instructions) for the contest, it still behooved me to do something with my swag other than throw it into school lunches and scarf it when my blood sugar dropped. I opened one of each flavor and cut off a sliver for tasting. They were all okay, and definitely more sophisticated than the run-of-the-mill granola bar. I liked the idea of the Toasted Coconut Banana Macadamia Nut flavor best, but found that I didn’t love the artificial banana flavor. All three flavors had healthy chunks of nut, which was great, and my favorite was the Honey Roasted Cashew Mixed Berry. My tasting of the coconut/banana/Macadamia flavor reminded me of Macadamia nut pancakes at Eggs ‘n Things in Honolulu, and I decided to see what would happen if I made regular pancakes and added small chunks of granola bar to the uncooked side of the cakes before flipping, which is what I do when adding fruit or chocolate chips. (I use Mark Bittman’s pancake recipe, but you could use your own, or Bisquick, or even that shake and pour stuff, if you must).
Those were some bangin’ pancakes, if I do say so myself. They taste like the ingredients in the granola bars were added directly, sans bar, and there are luscious little bits of chocolate, berry, nut or coconut throughout. Surprisingly, the flavor that I liked least in a granola bar made my favorite pancakes, and I will probably make them again with the addition of banana slices, and pineapple syrup.
I will probably never win a recipe contest (at least until I get better about following directions and following through), but I can say with some assurance that I did something interesting with my free granola bars. Now I’m wondering what else is at the back of the pantry…..