Friday, August 12, 2011

Homemade Granola Bars

I love granola bars, but typically don't eat them often because the ones in the stores seem to have lots and lots of sugar and other preservatives I really don't want to eat. I've been on the hunt for a great granola bar recipe that was full of delicious dried fruit, nuts and was not too sweet, but had a touch of honey. Okay, a lot of honey! I still had a ton of honey left (hello Costco!) from last year when I made home made granola as part of my Christmas gifts, and was wanting to use up what I had left. Honey never really goes bad, but I figured with the three large mason jars I have full,  I better get to using it!

I found a great recipe in one of my Ina Garten cookbooks and figured I'd give it a whirl. It had everything I wanted to use - dried fruits, oats, coconut, honey, and nuts. How good does that sound? Even though she lists dried apricots, dates and cranberries, you can really add what ever fruit you like and adjust it to your favorites. Same goes for the nuts. I followed the recipe perfectly and they turned out chewy and delicious. I would have liked them to be a little bit more crunchy, so I might bake them for 40 minutes instead of the recommended 30 minutes. Just keep and eye on them, because there is honey in there and the honey will burn.

Also, next time I think I will cut down on the honey to 1/2 a cup, the brown sugar to 2 tablespoons and substitute the butter for a couple of tablespoons of natural peanut butter. The recipe is delicious as it is, but just a hair too sweet for my taste and I think these changes will make them perfect! The butter didn't seem too much in the final product, but I don't think it was totally necessary. I've heard coconut oil is a good butter substitute, but I've heard mixed reviews due to the fact that one serving exceeds the recommended saturated fat consumption in a day. I was completely discouraged after reading the label in the store and decided to pass on it. Does anyone else bake with coconut oil?

hope I have everything I need

coconut, oats and almonds ready for toasting

chopped up dried fruit. mmm.

honey tip - spray your measuring cup with non-stick spray before you pour in your honey. this will make the honey slide right out!

granola bar station. note - if you have a foil pan, this is a good time to use it since it will make clean up a snap. If not, just line your pan with a piece of parchment paper.

in case you didn't know what wheat germ looked like.

honey mixture, fruit and toasted yumminess all in a bowl

granola bars - ready to eat!

Homemade Granola Bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. 

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well. 

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature

These granola bars are a must make. They are sweet, slightly crunchy and all around delicious. They are made fresh in your kitchen and are great for an afternoon snack or a breakfast on the go (you can even crumble them on yogurt)! These would even be the perfect camping and hiking snack too! I think I will be replacing my afternoon protein bar with one of these. That and they freeze well too. Just make sure to wrap them in a couple layers of plastic wrap and then place them all in a large Ziploc and freeze for up for three months. Just pull them out the night before you want one and they will be fresh and yummy!

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