Sunday, November 15, 2009

Granola Bars

Breakfast has always been my sister's favorite meal (well, besides dessert), but I have never been a big breakfast eater. Growing up I would have a bowl of Cheerios or some toast and that was about it. Granted, I loved when dad would make brunch on Sunday morning--what a treat--those ranged anywhere from pancakes, to french toast or home fries and dad's scrambled eggs (which always had cheese...yum). In college I developed a more refined palate and fell in love with a local diner. By senior year I had dropped my meal plan with the school and went to the cafe almost every morning to study and have my morning cup of joe. Now Dan and I don't have much time to have a sit down breakfast, but we still need a little something in the morning to keep us going through the day. We thought granola bars were a good answer, but after trying a dozen different ones--we were never really satisfied. Shoot, half of them are super sweet, loaded with calories and "stuff" you cannot pronounce. Thus, when I saw Ina Garten make these little beauties, I had to give them a whirl.

You can use a mixture of whatever dried fruit you want. I change it up each time depending on what I have in the pantry or what just sounds good to me at the time or what's in season. I typically will use a mixture of 3 or 4 of the following: apricots, dates, cranberries, dried cherries, golden raisins or zante currants.
Honey is a new minor culinary obsession for me. DC is a great place for culinary variety so I have been shopping honey so to speak. I like the darker "raw" honey for the most part--it just has a great depth of flavor, and since honey is the only real added sweetener you want something that has a little personality (in my opinion). I used a raspberry variety this last time from the Savannah Bee Company; they also make an Orange Blossom version that I think might lend itself well--I have a jar in my pantry standing by for next time!

Toasting the sliced almonds, coconut and oatmeal give the bars a little crunch and carmelize the flavors; as a bonus your house will smell yummy!

We have discovered that Remi must be smitten with us too (or he's just keeping tabs on us) because he's our little gray shadow--wherever we go--he goes. Here he is napping on the rug in the kitchen as I was making the granola bars.

I'm not sure how he found this position comfortable; it looks like he's posing for a muscle man competition or trying to do doggy yoga.
Granola Bars--via Ina Garten (with tweaks)
Makes 12-16 bars (depending on how small or large you choose to cut them)
2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I use sweetened just because it's typically easier to find)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (you can find this in the cereal aisle in a jar)
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (the bourbon variety is nice)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit

Preheat your oven to 350F. Butter a 9x13 baking pan and line with parchment paper.
Toss oatmeal, almonds and coconut together and spread out on a parchment lined jelly roll pan (I like the higher sides of the jelly roll for this, but it's up to you...I'm just accident prone so this minimized my clean up).

Bake for about 10 minutes until golden brown--stirring occasionally because the coconut will burn if you let it go--p.s. you will start to smell it as it browns.
Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce temp of the oven to 300F.

While the mixture is still warm, stir in your butter, honey, vanilla and salt until well combined--then dump in the dried fruit. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and press REALLY hard until it seems as packed as possible (for me--wet hands work well for this--think rice crispy treat kind of sticky).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until light golden brown (my oven is ghetto so it takes me about 40-45 minutes to get a good brown). Cool for 2 to 3 hours before cutting (you're going to need a good knife for this task!)

I like to put these guys in individual bags and keep them in the freezer (so that they don't go soft on us.) That way when Dan and I are trying to bolt out the door to get to work we can just grab one of these out of the freezer along with a mug of coffee and we're good to go. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Patricia,

    I love the new blog! I can't wait to meet Remi, either.

    See you soon!