But more often than not, I find myself grabbing a ready-to-go more easily consumable fruit/granola/cereal/protein "bar" from such companies as Nature Valley, Kashi, and Larabar, all of which have great natural, tasty, and nutritious options in their product lines.
Those options are great, but a homemade snack filled with ingredients you love is better! That's why I finally decided to try Homemade Granola Bars from Ina Garten. I'm glad I did because these are dangerously good, so good that they are worthy of going in the "all-time favorites" recipe archives.
The great thing about granola is that you throw in the things you have in your pantry, or the things you love to eat the most. I followed the recipe outline, but I also added brown rice krispies, some extra leftover roasted nuts, dried currants (like a little raisin, but cuter, sweeter, and more delicious) and craisins (dried cranberries = yummy) for the dried fruit, and even ground flaxseed and psyllium husks for a little added boost in nutrition and fiber (don't worry, it doesn't change the flavor) . And of course, chocolate! I like a gook dark chocolate because it balances the sweetness of the granola bar.
Here's how it breaks down.
Oatmeal, almonds, and coconut on a sheet pan to toast in the oven. I know some don't love coconut and of course it can be omitted, but I've recently fallen in love with the nutty toasty sweet chewy texture and flavor it lends, so I would recommend giving it another try.
This is wheat germ and I am toasting it separately.
Now I am melting the delish goo that holds the bars together: butter, honey, brown sugar, and salt. I recommend adding the vanilla after the mixture bubbles and is removed from the heat. Click here for an interesting article on sweeteners.
I don't know what happened to my ingredients picture, but here are the bars pressed and ready to bake.
And now in all of it's toasty golden perfection!
Don't leave out the good dark chocolate!
Sprinkle on the warm bars and wait for the magic to happen.
Oooh, melty and almost spreadable.
Spread the chocolate, allow the bars to cool completely, (will take several hours or pop in the fridge) and cut into beautiful bars.
All stacked up and ready to eat. Delicious.
Try this recipe featured below and experiment with your own ingredients:
- 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.