Make it Naked

Monkey Bars

I used to be a neat freak. A bit of an obsessive compulsive, reorganize the pantry daily, the yogurt goes on the refrigerator door – not the top shelf type of neat freak. Cookbooks were in size order, pots were fitted with their lids and methodically placed in a cabinet. I’m not saying that being neat is a bad thing; it’s not. Leaving the house unhygienic is dangerous for many reasons; a build-up of bacteria, more of a likelihood of slipping over something dropped and left on the floor, and having to call out pest control services like due to a pest infestation. I had just taken it to another level.

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If you dropped by for a surprise visit, I’d show you around and offer you a drink. But then this blog happened and neat went right out the window. I’ve been creating and re-creating. I’ve been tasting and testing. I’ve been reading and writing and re-writing and re-tasting. And neat just doesn’t fit in with any of that. So I’m begging you, or maybe I’m warning you, no surprise drop-ins. Please.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love your company, it’s that if you come over unannounced you’ll have to excuse the tissue paper “curtains” I have taped up to the windows to filter the sunlight for photos. You’ll have to promise not to sue when you trip over cookbooks and magazines strewn across the floor. And you’ll have to pretend not to notice the sink full of dishes or the peanut butter in my hair.

Or maybe, if you come over unannounced, I’ll give you

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one of these granola bars and you won’t care about anything else. You’ll understand that the stacks of dirty dishes were a necessary part of the monkey bar test kitchen. You’ll understand that the peanut butter in my hair is actually a peanut butter, honey, banana mixture and you’ll contemplate licking my ponytail.

These granola bars are wonderfully adaptable. My version includes flax meal and oat bran for some healthy bonus points. They’re chewy with a bit of crunch from the roasted peanuts. Peanut

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butter, honey and banana are melted and mixed to hold these bars together. I dare you not to eat a spoonful. The bars are hearty, healthy and dense. Perfect for a quick out-the-door snack or on-the-road breakfast. And while you’re out and about, come on over. I have a sink full of dishes that needs your attention.

Monkey Bars (makes 8-12, depending on desired size) Ingredients: 2 cups oats 1/2 cup roasted peanuts 1/4 cup flax meal 1/4 cup oat bran 1/4 cup maple syrup 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used unsweetened natural) 1/4 cup honey 1 large banana, very ripe and mashed 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup chocolate chips Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9×5 pan with parchment paper (see note below).
  2. In a large bowl mix the oats, peanuts, flax, oat bran and maple syrup until oats are coated. Spread the mixture onto a greased or non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Half way through baking, stir the oats. Remove when the mixture is lightly golden. Let cool completely. Save the large bowl for later use.
  3. While the oats are toasting, in a medium sauce pan combine the peanut butter, honey and mashed banana. Stir on medium-high heat until the mixture thins out (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Let cool completely.
  4. When the oat mixture and peanut butter mixture are cooled, stir them together with the chocolate chips in the large bowl.
  5. Spread mixture into prepared pan, flatten with a spatula and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the bars from the pan using the edges of the parchement and let cool. Cut into desired size bars.


  1. You should know that I spread the mixture in 3 different pans to test the different thicknesses. Did I mention I make a lot of dirty dishes? I liked the 9×5 the best. 8×8 was too thick for my liking. 13×9 was way too thin, but you can actually use a 13×9 and just not spread it all the way across the entire pan. Using a 13×9 will allow you to spread to your desired thickness.
  2. Get creative. I imagine you could use almond butter, any type of nut, or even add in some dried fruit. I used mini semi-sweet chips, but I think any chocolate will do. Chop up a dark chocolate bar. Use chunks instead of chips. Or replace the chocolate with raisins. No. Don’t.
  3. Patience is a virtue…that I lack. In one test run the mixtures weren’t cool enough and the chips melted. Not a bad thing but not what I wanted. On the next try, both mixtures went straight into the refrigerator for cooling before the chips were mixed in. You can see the difference above. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t wait – you’ll just have a more uniform chocolate flavor instead of crunchy little chips throughout.
  4. Did you know it’s American Chocolate Week? Here, let me help you celebrate. Philly Fluff – A cream cheese pound cake with a chocolate swirl Coconut Caramel Brownies – Girl Scout cookie meets brownie Toasted, Roasted Peanut-Chocolate Chip Cookies – Flourless peanut butter cookies Cowboy Cookies – Oats, chocolate, coconut and pecans all in one cookie. Yes. Peppermint Mocha Cake – A popular Starbucks drink in cake form Chocolate Espresso Biscotti – The perfect chocolate dunking cookie Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies – If you haven’t already…you should

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Posted on March 24, 2011

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