October 22, 2010

Puffed rice bars | Mexican Vegan dinner

Another bake sale in support of Pigs Peace Sanctuary is happening tomorrow at Sidecar vegan store in Seattle, and I just finished making a batch of puffed rice bars. I'm debating baking a load of carrot cupcakes but I'm not feeling quite in the mood. We'll see.

Many years ago in a tai chi class, I watched a video of street vendors in China making puffed rice squares. They boiled syrup, stirred in puffed rice, peanuts, dried fruit and I don't remember what else, and after pressing the mixture into pans, cut it into squares and sold it to eager customers. Something about the look of those bars caught my imagination, and as soon as I got home, I tried to create something similar. The tai chi teacher said that the syrup reminded her of barley malt syrup, so that's what I started with. I've made many variations of these over the years, but this is the basic recipe I started with. Gooey, crunchy, toasty and sweet with hints of salt from the peanuts, these make a great snack or dessert.

Barley malt is less sweet than other sweeteners such as maple syrup or agave, or even brown rice syrup, so if you like things on the sweet side, you might want to combine different ones to get the right balance. Or add 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar to the syrup before you cook it. The bars are plenty sweet for me.

Puffed rice bars
  • 6 cups puffed brown rice cereal (I used Nature's Path organic rice puffs)
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, toasted in a pan
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup peanuts, roasted and salted
  • 1-1/4 cups barley malt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. In a 425˚ oven, toast the cereal in a large pan for 8 minutes, stirring once or twice. This isn't essential but it intensifies the flavor.
  2. Toast the sunflower seeds in a heavy pan on the stove until fragrant and golden.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cereal, sunflower seeds, raisins and peanuts, and mix well, distributing the ingredients evenly. It helps to use your hands.
  4. Heat the syrup in a 1-1/2 quart pot over low-medium heat, stirring constantly. The syrup will start to bubble and foam. Adjust the heat if necessary so the syrup doesn't overflow. Cook and stir for 7 minutes, then add the peanut butter and stir until completely melted, about a minute more.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  6. Pour the hot syrup mixture over the cereal mixture and quickly and thoroughly combine with a wooden spoon until all the cereal mix is completely coated.
  7. Press into a lightly oiled 10-1/2 x 15-1/2 inch pan, using the spoon. The mixture will cool quickly. Using wet hands, press it down into the pan, making it even and compact.
  8. Cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then cut into pieces with a serrated knife or a pizza cutter.
  9. For best results store in the freezer or refrigerator. The bars soften at room temperature.
  10. I cut mine into 24 rectangles.
Notes: (1) You can use a different size pan. (2) I discovered I was out of raisins so I cut up dates. I may also have cut up a mini Lara apple pie bar because cutting dates is so slow. (3) Sometimes I make these with crispy brown rice instead of puffed, for a different texture. (4) Make them with brown rice syrup for gluten-free. (5) Don't try to clean up with cold water; it will harden the syrup. Use warm or hot water.


Monthly vegan dining event

We once again attended the monthly dinner sponsored by Vegetarians of Washington. This month's dinner was catered by Bonnie and Ray Parton of Lucky Palate catering and food delivery service. They served a colorful and delicious vegan Mexican meal. Bonnie said she's always willing to provide recipes, and I may take her up on her offer.

The menu: tortilla chips and salsa, Mexican squash casserole, black bean chili, Mexican roasted vegetables, red and white quinoa with collards, paella with Field Roast and red beans, spicy chipotle corn, flour and corn tortillas, strawberry crumble bar.

If you live in the Seattle area, consider coming to one of these events — you don't have to be vegan or vegetarian, though the food always is vegan. Bring containers with you if you come, there are always lots of leftovers to take home!


  1. I have been wanting to try and experiment with barley malt syrup for a while now...thank you for the inspiration and reminder!

    I wish I lived in the Seattle area...your meals always look so good and leftovers to take home too?!? Sign me up, lol!


  2. Those rice bars are a great idea...I'm sure they'll stand out at the bake sale. They look golden and yummy...kind of like those crunchy sesame rectangles that are basically loads of sesame seeds baked with some sort of sweet syrupy stuff...these remind me of a deluxe version of those.

    I'm kind of shy about attending events like the veggie dinner...but looks like you guys certainly have plenty of delicious eats.

  3. Courtney,
    Seattle does have a lot of vegan food — but I thought Minneapolis did too. Do you have a vegan meetup group there?

    You should stop in to the sale on Saturday. There are usually lots of interesting things to buy. I'll be there from 10 until around 1.

    I was shy about going to the dinners at first, too, but they're pretty easy going and non-threatening.

  4. The rice bars sound like a fancier (and healthier) version of rice krispie treats. I think it's great that you made those for the bake sale! I love when I get the chance to make things for bake sales.

  5. Your puffed rice bars sound great. I've never seen or heard of barley malt. I'll have to keep my eyes open for it. I used to love rice krisie treats. I bet these are way better!

  6. There is a lot of vegan food in Minneapolis, you are right about that. I am not sure about a meetup group, though...I will have to look into it! How did you find your group in Seattle?


  7. Kiersten,
    These bars taste pretty different from rice krispie treats, for better or worse. They are softer and chewier, too. Barley malt has a really distinct taste. I bought a vegan, healthy rice krispie bar at the bake sale but was too full of other stuff to try it yet!

    See the comment above. You could make these bars with crispy brown rice and rice syrup for something closer to a rice krispie bar.

    You can google meetup.com and look for a vegan group near you. There's a great group in Madison but I haven't tried the Seattle one, yet. The dinners are with the Vegetarians of Washington.

  8. Hey Andrea,

    I would have loved to stop by, but was busy all day. I hope it was a success!

  9. Rose,
    I left after 1 p.m. and the sale was going strong. There's still time to buy stuff because the sale is on today, too. There's lots of great baked goods, including gluten-free, to choose from.

  10. Hi Andrea, It was great meeting you yesterday. Looking forward to your MoFo next month.


  11. First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Glad it was such a good one!
    Secondly I'm off to put puffed rice cereal on my shopping list! Jane's off to a convention next weekend and doesn't expect there to be any suitable food, so she's stocking up on tasties and has asked me to make some cereal bars. These might just fit the bill! Thanks!

  12. Aimee,
    I was so happy to meet you, too! I loved the zucchini cupcake, especially the little flecks of dark green and the chocolate chips.

    Thank you. If you do make the bars, I hope Jane enjoys them. I like them best when they've been kept in a refrigerator, but I'll happily eat them all gooey, too.

  13. The rice bars look so wonderfully crispy! I think I would have to buy them all if I went to the bake sale! :)

  14. The puffed rice bars look amazing! I had no idea there was so many other sweeteners besides plain ol' sugar. I kinda like how it's not super sweet. :-)

  15. River,
    They tend to be more gooey than crisp unless you keep them in the freezer. I bought a few, myself, but not too many because my hands were full of other people's baked goods. :D

    Chow vegan,
    I'm learning about new sweeteners all the time, but my usage of this one dates back to the late eighties when I first concocted this recipe.

  16. The bars look great--I really enjoy the taste of barley malt syrup (wish I could use it nowadays). And the vegan event sounds so wonderful--how terrific to be able to enjoy all the food at an event!

  17. Happy Belated Birthday! Shame on me for missing that post. What a great pic of you and your hubby. How did you load the polaroid onto your post?

    Great snack idea. I just might borrow that for my kids. They are ravenous 25 hours a day, eight days a week. And, of course, you had an awesome potluck again, lucky girl!

  18. Try not having the rice puffed. I used to eat puffed rice bars when I was a kid. They come in different colors, though. And you can also make puffed rice balls.

  19. First of all, happy (very belated) birthday! :) It does sound like you had a wonderful day!

    The rice bars sound interesting. I'm not sure how readily barley malt syrup is available here, but I'll have to check in the store next time. :)

    You lucky people living in the Seattle area - the food always looks delicious! How I wish we had something similar in Denmark, too. ;)

  20. Ricki,
    I like the taste of barley malt, too, though it's a little strong. My father used to put barley malt powder into pizza dough when he owned an Italian restaurant. Ricki, I'd love for you to be able to attend an event where you could eat all the food! It's such a nice, and unusual, feeling.

    Thanks. It's never to late for good wishes.
    I scanned the photo and saved it to my computer.
    Would you believe the dinners are catered — no potluck dish to cook. (Though I love potlucks, too.)

    Sometimes I use crispy rice instead of puffed, but I've never shaped them into balls. I should try that.

    Thank you — I did have a good day.
    What liquid sweeteners do you have? Any would probably work. Sometimes I use rice syrup with a little maple syrup. You could even make a thick syrup with raw sugar and water.

  21. Hey, I can't view your site properly within Opera, I actually hope you look into fixing this.

  22. Anon,
    I'll look into it but I'm not sure how to fix it. I'll check to see what solutions others using blogspot have found. Have you tried clearing your cache?

  23. Anon,
    I'll look into it but I'm not sure how to fix it. I'll check to see what solutions others using blogspot have found. Have you tried clearing your cache?

  24. Whoa. Those bars look awesome!


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