When my oldest kids were small, I remember spending inordinate amounts of time convincing them to eat. "Here, try this. Just a bite. Yummy, yummy, yummy." Funny how quickly the moments of trying to get them to eat have flown by. Now I find myself thinking things like "Oh NO, surely they can't be hungry agaaaaaaaiiiiiin!! What will I feed them this time?" These used-to-be-pudgy-legged toddlers have stretched up into long, lean, eatin' machines.
So, my solution to the constant drumbeat of "I've starving - what's to eat?" One of them was packaged granola bars. Easy to grab, portable, and it says granola right on the box, so it must be healthy right? Up until recently, I could split a single granola bar two, even three ways. That made for a perfectly sufficient snack and a box lasted a good week. Ah the good old days. Now, with 4 kids and a husband who brown bags it for lunch, a box is emptied in a day. Yikes! At two bucks a box, that adds up quickly. And then....you already know where this is going, don't you? I turned the box around and read the ingredient list. There it was. Chock-ful of high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, even artificial colors. All the things we are trying to avoid.
What to do? Make my own bars of course. I've been playing around with different recipes for the last couple of months and I have finally landed on an adaption of Smitten Kitchen's granola bars as a keeper. These bars are thickly moist, packed with nutrition rich ingredients. The nutrition thing is good of course, but better yet, these taste amazing. Not dry and dusty, not boring and flavorless, these are really great.
Thick, Chewy Granola Bars
This makes a pretty large batch. I easily get 20 bars out of one pan. If you need a smaller amount, make half a recipe. They do freeze well.
- 4 cups oats- old fashioned, quick or a combination
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup oat flour ( what is oat flour? I never have it, so I have swapped in ground flax seed, wheat or oat bran, wheat germ or whole wheat flour. They all work just fine)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 5-6 cups dried fruits and nuts- use whatever you have on hand
- 1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter (Hmmm. Do you think Nutella is a nut butter? That is one variation I haven't tried yet.
- 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 6 Tablespoons applesauce (if you are out, use butter instead. Or oil. Or maybe yogurt.
- 3/4 cup honey, maple syrup, corn syrup,or molasses. If you choose to use molasses, I would use only use that for part of the 3/4 cup it calls for. To much molasses can really overpower.
- 1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9X13 pan generously with pan spray.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In separate small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, applesauce, syrups, nut butter water and egg. Toss the wet into the dry and stir, stir, stir or until mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread firmly into prepared pan and by this I mean really exert some force here. Press the bars into the pan. I usually lay a piece of waxed paper over the pan and press down hard on the back.
Bake bars for 30-40 minutes - until they are browned around the edges. Now comes the hard part. Let these cool to room temp and then pop them into the fridge overnight. They smell incredible, so this will be hard! However, the bars will tend to be really crumbly if you try to cut them while still at all warm. It's a wonder what a cooling off period will do.
After the bars are chilled, use a thin sharp knife to cut them into squares. Wrap each bar individually in plastic wrap. There you go! Easy, healthy, on-the-go kind of snack. The perfect thing to get us through the next few weeks of soccer season.