Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Homemade Granola Bars


The wonderful thing about homemade granola bars is that you know exactly what's in them. There are so many granola bars on the market filled with ingredients I've never heard of, not to mention preservatives. That doesn't sound too enticing or healthy. The homemade version I've made, adapted from Ina Garten, is firm, yet chewy. The great part is, they last for a month in the freezer and defrost in just a few minutes. I like to take them on the road with me or when running errands. It's easy to work up and appetite when scurrying around the city and it's great to be able to pull out a couple homemade granola bars to tide me over. I sound like a mom. 

Later this week, Aaron and I are heading off on a mini vacation to the Adirondacks in beautiful upstate New York. Both of us has never been that far upstate, so hopefully we'll have some relaxing quiet time away from NYC and  get to see some spectacular fall foliage. We plan on hiking for some of the time (our dog, Lady, won't know what hit sleeping around the apartment like a bum), so these granola bars will definitely come in handy. A must have on any camping or outdoor excursion!

Like granola, granola bars are extremely versatile, allowing the cook to incorporate whichever dried fruit or nuts they desire. There's room for imagination, so play around with the recipe to see what you like best.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten, Back to Basics, 2008

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped, stemmed dried figs
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 9 x 13-inch baking dish or pan and line with parchment. Butter the parchment and set aside.

Toss the oats, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring every so often, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir the mixture for 1 minute, then evenly pour over the toasted oat mixture. Add the dried figs, cranberries, and raisins and stir well to combine. 

Pour the mixture out into the prepared pan. Using a metal spatula, firmly press the granola mixture into the pan, seeing that it is evenly distributed. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool in the pan for 2 to 3 hours before transferring to a cutting board. Cut the granola into 16 bars. The bars keep well at room temperature for a few days. For long term storage, place bars in a gallon zip-top bag and freeze for up to a month.

Yield: 16 granola bars

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