Friday, October 19, 2012

Food on Friday: Homemade Granola Bars

I like quick and easy snacks. Having an active baby and being a busy woman keeps me from being able to spend lots of time in the kitchen creating decadent treats and elaborate meals. But I can manage to spend time preparing a bulk amount of snacks or meals every so often to make the coming weeks and days easier. I did a little of that yesterday.

I love granola bars. I'm not a fan of the tiny sugary ones that are filled with high fructose corn syrup and you have to eat about a dozen just to feel like your appetite has been slightly curbed. But they can be kind of expensive--especially when you want hearty, quality ones with some sort of nutrition factor that may make it worth eating.

I've been wanting to make my own for a while, so I finally did! There are some major benefits to doing that.
  • I know exactly what's going into them, and therefore exactly what I'm putting into my body when I eat them. 
  • I can make them as healthy (or for that matter, as unhealthy) as I'd like. I can leave out or put in whatever nuts or dried fruits I want (or don't want).
  • I get to decide the portions. I can make them bite-sized or I can make them an entire meal.
  • They always taste better than store-bought granola bars.

I made a double batch of three different "flavors" of granola bars. The base is the same, but the add-ins are different. 

Cranberry raisin, chocolate chip pecan, and coconut white chocolate chip.

Here's my recipe.


Granola Bars
Makes 20-30, depending on how you cut them.

Granola base:
6 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/2 cup olive or canola oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup apple or white grape juice
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal
1 cup cracked oats 

1 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
1 cup raisins
1 - 2 cups Craisins or other dried fruit
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1/2 - 1 cup sesame or sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, toss oats, oil, and salt. Spread mixture out on large baking sheet (or two smaller ones) and toast in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and let oats cool.

Reduce oven to 325 degrees F.

In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, honey, and juice. Heat the mixture on low to medium heat, stirring constantly until brown sugar is dissolved. Stir in vanilla. Remove from heat. 

Return toasted oats to large bowl. Add rice cereal, cracked oats, and whatever add-ins you'd like and toss until evenly mixed. Pour sugary syrup over the granola. Stir until everything is thoroughly coated with the syrup. 

Press into a greased, large baking sheet (or two smaller ones) and bake until golden, usually 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. 

Cut into desired portion sizes. Wrap individually for ready-to-go snacks or serve in bite-sized pieces for easy finger-food treats. 


Toasting the oats.

Making the brown sugar and honey syrup.

Tossing all of the granola ingredients.

Sliced into bars.

Mmm. Perfection.

Crunchy, hearty, and bursting sweet and savor.

I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap for easy grab-and-go snacks.

A double batch made about 60 bars!

Some tips and suggestions:
  • If you don't have any cracked oats, it's okay. I just like using them for different textures and sizes of oats. 
  • If you want to try a variety of add-ins or "flavors" but don't want to make the entire batch like that, try separating the mixture evenly into two different mixing bowls and putting different add-ins in each. Press into two smaller baking sheets and bake as directed.

  • Make sure to stir the sugary syrup stuff into the granola thoroughly. If you don't, there will be a giant pool of it at the bottom of your bowl. So make sure you scoop from the bottom to the top to get everything mixed together.
  • The longer it cools once removed from the oven, the crunchier it'll be. That also means they'll be more difficult to cut the longer you wait. But if you try to cut them too soon, they'll be too soft and will fall apart easily. I just let them cool completely and then used a sharp knife to cut them (thank you, Cutco!).
  • Get creative and try using different kinds of add-ins! Pretty much any oats, nuts, seeds, or dried fruit will work. Some that I plan on trying in the future are: poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground flax seed, and dried apricots (sliced up, of course). Also, I didn't have any puffed rice cereal. But I had some Special K. I used it, and I actually prefer to use it now because it adds a really nice texture to the bars. You could try other cereals too--bran flakes, grape nuts, etc. 
    Look at those cute little sesame seeds.

  • In my second batch, I tried using chocolate chips and white chocolate chips instead of the raisins and dried fruit. Add them in last, after everything is pretty well coated with the syrup. Otherwise they'll start to melt while you're stirring it all together and you'll have chocolate swirled granola bars, which is fine if you want that, but it will make them stick to the baking sheet a lot more too.
Chocolate chip and pecan granola bar.

One of these + an apple = a healthy, balanced snack I'm happy to eat!
We'll see how long they last in this household. I may be making these again next week...

1 comment:

  1. I have *got* to try this! I'm thinking of adding carob, sunflower seeds, pecans and dried apples. Yum! Perfect camping snacks too!