Passing the Bar
...since most are filled with crap.
By Meg Favreau
In 1999, a company named Breakaway Foods created a line of products called IncrEdibles. Packaged in tubes with sticks at the bottom, the IncrEdibles family consisted of savory, meal-replacing treats that could be heated in the microwave and then pushed from the tube and straight into one's mouth. No utensils were required; all you needed was a food hole in your face ready to receive such appetizing tube products as Macaroni & Cheese, Chili Mac, and Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Sausage. The IncrEdibles press release also used the phrase “push n' eat” [sic]. Apparently if you don't have time to eat food with a fork, you don't have time to say the letter “i” either.
I've had both Kellogg's and convenience foods on my mind recently because of the new year. See, it's resolution time, which means all across America, people have promised that they'll eat better in 2010. For many, part of that promise is that they'll finally start eating breakfast. And for a section of those people, that breakfast will be Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bars. The first of the modern “cereal bars” on the market back in 1991 and still one of the most popular brands today, Nutri-Grain bars are like a gateway breakfast — easy-to-access and not too threatening for people who usually skip the meal.
But eating a Nutri-Grain bar for breakfast is also like smoking fewer cigarettes: it's better than nothing, but geeze, you really should just quit smoking. By which I mean a Nutri-Grain bar is really not a great breakfast on its own, and Kellogg's knows it. While advertising phrases like “Sets you up to eat better all day” can lead consumers to believe that Nutri-Grain bars are meant as breakfast replacements, Kellogg's Web site refers to the bars as a “mid-morning snack.” At only 130 calories and 37 grams, it's unlikely that a Nutri-Grain bar is going to fill you up until lunchtime. Not only that, but while the bars do boast whole grains, they do so with the help of high fructose corn syrup and things like “propylene glycol esters of fatty acids,” which seriously sounds like a fake food additive someone made up as a joke.
As a breakfast lover, I'd like to encourage everyone to sit at the breakfast table each morning with a big bowl of fruit-filled oatmeal, but I know that's not reasonable. We have busy lives, and if your life is set up in such a way that you have to make a serious resolution in order to just get a morning meal in your mouth, convenience can be the difference between eating and not. So yeah, I've included a recipe below for breakfast bars that you can make over the weekend and grab in the morning just like you would a pre-packaged bar. But if you can't take the 15 minutes in your morning to sit down with a bowl of cereal, maybe your New Year's resolution shouldn't be to eat breakfast, it should be to reconsider how you schedule your life. Because while Nutri-Grain bars can be a gateway food to a nice full breakfast, they can also be a gateway to chowing down on more convenience foods and thinking less about what you eat.
And that, friends, is a slippery slope. One with IncrEdibles at the end. • 11 January 2010
|Cherry-Apple Breakfast Bars
Whether you're eating them for breakfast or your “mid-morning snack,” these bars are great. They've got your whole grains, plus some fruit and and a little jam to taste sweet but not too sweet. I browsed through and tested a few different Nutri-Grain knock-off recipes before landing on this one, which is adapted from one I found on Carrie's Cooking. If you make a batch of these over the weekend, they can last you a week or two; just freeze half to keep them fresh.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another. Mix the two together; set aside. Mix the cherry jam with the water. Coat an 8” x 8” pan with cooking spray and press half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan. Spread the jam on top, then top with the apple slices in a thin layer. Press the rest of the oat mixture on top, then bake until golden, approximately 40 minutes. Cool on a rack and then slice into 12 bars.
If you'd like to up the protein content in these babies, toss a 3/4 cup of chopped nuts in to the oat mixture before pressing it into the pan.
Meg Favreau is a writer and comedian living in Philadelphia. She blogs at ihearyoulikestories.com.
Recipe photo by Meg Favreau.