Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Healthy 4 (or 8)-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars Recipe and a Book Review of StandOut by Marcus Buckingham

Marcus Buckingham believes that by honing in on your natural abilities and strengths, you can take your performance to the next level and be happier and more productive at work and in life. StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strength's Revolution is his latest book and I recently had a chance to review it.

I have been reading Buckingham's work since his first books, First Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths came out. As a manager, I bought copies of his strengths books for my team and had them take the strengths assessments and I was consistently impressed with how accurate the assessments were so I was curious to read this latest book and experience "the next generation strengths assessment." The book includes an access code to use to take the online assessment (It costs $15.00 to take the assessment and receive the detailed report without the book's access code), a series of work-related questions that measure how well you match the 9 roles. After answering the questions your lead and secondary roles are revealed and you receive a detailed report. All 9 roles are ranked on the report, but the top two scores are the areas where your biggest strengths come into play and where you have "competitive advantage" in the workplace. Out of the 9 roles: Advisor, Connector, Creator, Equalizer, Influencer, Pioneer, Provider, Stimulator and Teacher, I ended up with Connector as my primary role and Creator as my secondary.

According to the book and report:

Connectors are: Individuals who see the world as a web of relationships and connect with people constantly. These individuals realize that people with different strengths can bond together to accomplish great things. In order to be successful as a connector, you need to learn as much as you can about the people around you and find opportunities to collaborate."

Creators: Before asking for help, you come up with ideas. You enjoy alone time to think and be clear on what you need to do. You take pride in your ideas, don’t like surprises, and you are relentless in your actions.

I was not surprised to see connector as my top strength here because in previous strengths assessments, connectedness or connector always came out at or near the top. Creator seemed to fit too and was similar to my previous results, although it's not an exact match because there used to be over 30 strengths rather than the 9 roles in this updated version. (Yes, I am geeky enough about self-assessments to keep them all in a file) ;-) Once you know your key strengths, the book provides a details and support for each of the 9 roles including You at Your Most Powerful, How to Take Your Performance to the Next Level, What to Watch For, How to Win as a Leader, a Manager, in Sales and in Client Services. It's basically your self-development plan in a compact 200ish pages.

StandOut is a quick and easy read, with good ideas and it's fun to take the assessment and see where you come out. I can't say I liked it quite as much as the other strengths books as I prefer their detail and I liked the larger number of strengths they had because it seemed somewhat more specific and accurate than the new broader categories. Still, I think there is great value in the book for both career and life and I made quite a few highlights to go back and review. I think StandOut is a good update for those familiar with the strengths movement as well as a good introduction to those who aren't.

Obligatory Disclosure Statement: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher through PTA Reader Rewards but as always, my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

It is my practice to make a dish inspired by the books I read, as at its heart this is a food blog. I won't lie and tell you that this recipe is particularly related to StandOut, it's just a recipe I have been wanting to try for a healthy snack bar. It comes from a favorite spot, The Kitchn and arrived with my update email. I suppose you could say it connects me to other blogs and creates a healthy snack idea. ;-)

These 4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars (actually 8-Ingredients if you add the few optional add-ins like vanilla, salt, cinnamon and flax seed) are originally from a blog called Friesen Cold. They are super healthy, using ripe bananas as the replacement for the eggs and oil or fat, as well as the sugar (along with the dates) in a normal snack bar. I am all for a healthy treat that tastes good, sneaks me in some fiber and omega-3's, and leaves out processed sugar. As long as your oats are gluten-free, they are perfect for any gluten-intolerant individuals out there--another plus.

4 (or 8)-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars (With Options!)
Adapted from The Kitchn by way of Ginger at Friesen Cold
(Makes a 9x9" pan--which I cut into 12 pieces)

2 large, very ripe bananas (I used an equal quantity of local apple bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional) (I added it)
2 cups rolled oats (I used 1 3/4 cup oats and 1/4 cup ground flax seed)
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional) (used it)
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans (I used a combo of walnuts and almonds)
Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional) (I used cinnamon)

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x9-inch square baking dish with olive oil or butter.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid. (You will have between 1 cup and 1 1/4 cup.) Stir in the vanilla, if using. Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the salt, dates, and nuts.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg or cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

Simple and really good--like a little piece of "oatty" banana bread, I really like these bars. They are very easy to make--1 bowl/ 1 pan and hold together surprisingly well. I did slightly under-bake mine (23 minutes instead of 30) because I prefer soft to crispy/crunchy, but go wild if you want. The original bars were apparently just banana, oats, nuts and dates, but I think the vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt really do add a lot so I highly recommend it. The flax seed is optional too--I just like to work it in where I can for the nutritional benefit. They are good cold, but even better served a little warm, great for snacks or breakfast on the go. I will make them again and will also play around with the base recipe using different fruit and nuts.


  1. Homemade granola bars are basically my new favorite snack! I love that these are banana-y...since I always have some around that needs to be used!

  2. I love these! I am going to make them next time the bananas are ripe! Thanks!

  3. First, you always make bars look so good! Mine never seem to look so appealing!

    Second, this book sounds so great. After reading your descriptions, I am definitely a creator. I need to check this one out for sure.

  4. I am so impressed - the banana really seems to bind them! I must give those a go.

  5. Hi! I've been enjoying reading your blog before my trip to Hawaii. That's why I've passed a blogger award on to you! It's on my Rolo Cookies post from today. Thanks for all you do!

  6. So much YES! These look delish.


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