Homemade Granola Bars
I’m embarrassed to admit this, but there was a time in my life when the majority of my meals came in the form for a bar. Prepackaged, processed food-like substances pressed into tight bars (usually dipped in some type of synthetic chocolate) were easy to eat on the go, cheap enough to buy in bulk and washed down just fine with a Diet Coke. Now, much older and only slightly wiser, I’ve abandoned those chemical-laden, artificial-everything bars in favor of real foods, but I find myself longing for the convenience and simplicity of a good bar. Only this time around, I’m a bit more picky. I want a bar with ingredients I can pronounce.
Oats, almond butter, raisins, apricots, walnuts, almonds. Yup, I can pronounce all of those! Saying that these granola bars are ridiculously easy to make it an understatement. They are simple enough that you could mass produce them in your own kitchen. No joke. They are free of any processed sugar, endlessly adaptable and perfect little snacks to take on the go. Say hello to the new generation of bars!
Homemade granola bars have been making the rounds on the internet and everyone espouses about how simple they are to make. It really is true. It boils down to two basic steps: (1) heating the liquid ingredients (the almond or peanut butter, mashed bananas, vanilla, agave nectar or honey) over the stove and (2) stirring said liquid ingredients into the dry mixture (oats, nuts and dried fruit). It doesn’t get much more basic than that.
In this batch I sprinkled the oats and nuts with a bit of cinnamon but feel free to substitute your favorite spices. I’ve seen recipes with ginger, nutmeg and even Asian five spice mix! Toasting the granola brings out the flavor of the nuts and lets the spices meld, but if you are short on time you could certainly skip that step. After baking, make sure that you let the batch get very cold before attempting to cut them. I actually put mine in the freezer for a little while. This will ensure that you get a nice clean cut on the edges of your bars.
Would you believe that I actually planned an entire hiking trip just as an excuse to make these granola bars? Yes, it’s true. For some reason, I couldn’t justify making all these granola bars unless it was tied to a strenuous outdoor activity. Irrational? Clearly. The reality of my brain? Completely. I can confidently say that these bars taste just as good when consumed while sitting next to this secluded lake as they do during a crazed afternoon at the office. No hiking trip required.
Homemade Granola Bars
Yield: 12 bars
2 cups rolled oats (use a gluten-free variety if making gluten-free bars)
3 large (approx 1 1/2 cups) very ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond or peanut butter
1 cup nuts and seeds (walnuts, almonds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sesame seeds, etc.)
1/2 cup dried fruit (apricots, raisins, dried blueberries, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt, a sprinkle to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with two pieces of parchment paper, leave an inch overhang on each side as handles to remove the bars once they are cooked.
- Spread oats and nuts on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and salt. Stir to coat. Toast for approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the bananas, nut butter, vanilla and agave nectar or honey. Stir for a few minutes until fully combined and warm.
- In a large bowl, combine the toasted oats/nuts with the warm banana mixture. Stir in the dried fruit. If you are using larger pieces of fruit, such as dried apricots, dice them into smaller pieces about the size of raisins so that all fruit is roughly the same size.
- Pour the mixture into prepared pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread and flatten the mixture.
- Bake 25-30 minutes or until the edges are just starting to brown. Let cool. Once cool, place pan in refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes to let fully chill. Once chilled, remove bars from pan using the parchment handles. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 bars. Wrap individually and store in an airtight container for up to a week.