Let’s be real here for a second.
Granola bars are the breakfast of “I stayed up too late last night watching 30 Rock reruns and overslept, and now I am grabbing a granola bar and stuffing it in my coat pocket to eat on my way to work…and later because I did not eat enough for breakfast, I will probably fish out the pocket crumbs and eat them too.”
Granola bars are those moments around 12:30 when I’ve ignored how hungry I am for the last half hour and now I am standing at the kitchen counter, absentmindedly eating bar after bar while I desperately try to think of something to eat for lunch.
Granola bars are a new mom’s best friend when all you ever have is one hand…to do anythingwith…and you are snarfing down five of them at three in the morning, while your baby literally sucks the nutrients out of you, and all you can think about is, “I wonder if Eric would hear me over the bedroom fan if I asked him to bring me three more…”
Granola bars are real life…kind of like this picture:
I was laughing to myself as I made these the other morning…there I was, making granola bars for the blog, setting up pretty pictures, and thinking of how to make these granola bars as attractive as possible, and simultaneously…
…my kitchen floor was covered with oats, which were sticking to my socks; no fewer than four cabinet doors and three drawers were open; the counter was literally covered with dirty dishes to the point that I had stacked a few on the top of the stove; and I was feeding a very screechy, teethy little boy his oatmeal breakfast, all the while shoving things out of the camera’s way and trying to get these granola bars in the oven before putting him down for his morning nap.
I just had to stop and take that picture. Inspired by a similar picture from one of my favorite blogs, I wanted to share that although Carpe Season’s pictures may make it look like we live in a Williams Sonoma catalog, so so much more often, our days are happy and messy and loud and busy punctuated by a few moments here and there of quiet and beauty.
Which is why granola bars are a necessity around here.
I started making these granola bars soon after Owen was born because of the aforementioned three a.m. feedings above. For my first few weeks of nursing, I ate my way through about four boxes of store-bought granola bars a week. Hear this: there is nothing wrong with store-bought granola bars, but after eating like 40 a week, I got kind of tired of how sweet most of them were. So, I turned to the ever-trusty Smitten Kitchen, made these granola bars, and haven’t really stopped since.
These granola bars are super easy to make, and can go from ingredients to oven in about twenty minutes. These bars are the picture of acceptance: you can use up your lingering half-used bags of nuts, the last of your raisins, sticking to the bottom of the carton, the few chocolate chips you haven’t eaten on spoonfuls of peanut butter. You can make these completely yours, more sweet, less sweet, with whatever ingredients you want. Love that. They are chewy and thick and a happy blend of salty and sweet. AND the best part is, they keep well for a week in the fridge or you can wrap them individually in wax paper and keep them in the freezer for those days when you just can’t seem to pull it together.
(Note: I did nothing to change this recipe as it was originally written by Deb on Smitten Kitchen. I have toyed around with these some, but you just can’t improve on something this good. Usually I try to create or at least use other recipes as inspiration, but let’s call this a curating post…I just need you to know these exist, and I need you to make a batch, and then eat them all within three days like I do. The end.)
(recipe from Smitten Kitchen )
(yields one 8x8x2" pan of bars)
This easy granola bar recipe makes perfect salty-sweet chewy granola bars that are not too sweet. You can use any combination of dried fruit or nuts that you like. They come together quickly and can even be frozen.
1 2/3 c. quick rolled oats
1/2 to 3/4 c. granulated sugar, to taste (I use a scant 1/2 c.)
1/3 c. oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed until finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 to 3 c. dried fruits and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces)*
1/3 c. peanut butter or another nut butter (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 tbsp. melted butter
1/4 c. honey or maple syrup
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tbsp. water
*Suggestions: dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried pples or even chocolate chips. (My current favorite: 1/3 c. unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/2 c. chopped pecans, 1/2 c. chopped walnuts, 1/4 c. sliced almonds, 1 c. dried cranberries)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides (to make a "sling"). Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan, or coat with a non-stick spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners, water, and peanut butter if using. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing down firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it with your hands.)
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan but do not worry, they’ll set completely once completely cool.
Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. (Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “sling” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to cool the rest of the way. This can speed the process up.)
Once cool, a serrated knife (or bench knife) to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill the pan of them further in the fridge for 30 minutes which will fully set the “glue”, then cut them cold (I've had to do this every time). To store: place bars in an airtight container, or wrap bars individually in plastic. Keep in the fridge. You can also freeze these in an airtight container; I've frozen them before individually in wax paper.