Thursday, March 15, 2012

Home Made Granola Bars

The quest for a better breakfast continues.  My latest attempt to get myself and my family to eat something a bit better for ourselves- granola bars.  My kids love granola bars of all types- chewy, crunchy, filled with dried fruit like cherries, studded with peanut butter chips, topped with coconut.  Of course the ones they like best involve chocolate in one form or another.  I have to admit, my favorites are a chewy, dark chocolate chip and cherry variety.

Not too long ago, I ran across a recipe over at smitten kitchen that promised thick and chewy granola bars unlike anything you can pick up in a box at the grocery store.  Thinking it may come in handy sometime, I bookmarked it and promised myself that one day I'd try it out.  My opportunity came when I picked up a bag of dried wild blueberries last week.  They aren't the dried cherries from my favorite granola bar, but surely they would substitute nicely right?
My granola experiment was successful- the bars turned out chewy, sticky and pretty darn tasty.  Feeling brave after my first attempt, I quickly followed up my first batch with a crowd pleasing chocolate peanut butter variety.  My kids didn't love the blueberry sesame bars, but the "mmmm"s and "yum"s coming from the kitchen table after school yesterday lead me to believe that the second try was a winner.

Home Made Granola Bars
This recipe is more of a formula than anything else, though I'll give you the measurements for my two variations at the end.  You can really go crazy with your own ideas and make these according to whatever you have in your pantry.  The possibilities are limitless. Oh, and if you use gluten free oats, you can have a low sugar gluten free granola bar- how great is that?!

1 2/3 cups quick oats ( I didn't have quick ones, so I just whizzed some rolled oats in the food processor until they were slightly broken up)
1/3 cup oat flour (again I didn't have this, so the rolled oats went back in the food processor, this time until they were finely ground)
1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar (depends on how sweet you want them, I found the 2/3 cup to be almost too sweet)
6 tbs melted butter
1/3 cup nut butter (optional)
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, or agave nectar
1 tbs water
2-3 cups add ins (such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, oat or wheat bran, rice krispies, chocolate chips, coconut)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment down one side, across the bottom and up the opposite side.  Spray the pan and parchment with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (oats, oat flour, sugar, and your add ins).  Stir together.  Add all of the wet ingredients (including the nut butter if you're using it) and stir to combine.  Pour the contents of the bowl into the baking pan.  Press the granola tightly into the pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  The edges will get brown and the top will seem almost set. 

Let the bars cool completely in the pan (and I mean completely).  Remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares.  I recommend wrapping them individually so that they don't stick together.  They will keep for several days in an airtight container.

Blueberry Sesame Variation: I used honey as my sweetener and tahini as my nut butter.  My add ins were 1/3 cup oat bran, 1/3 cup sesame seeds and 1 cup dried wild blueberries.

Chocolate Peanut butter Variation:  For this bar, I omitted the granulated sugar as I wanted a crunchy bar.  I used maple syrup as my sweetener and no-sugar-added peanut butter as my nut butter.  My add ins were 1/3 cup oat bran, 1 cup rice krispies, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, and 2/3 cup peanut butter chips.

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