Homemade Granola Bars

Before I was old enough to know about calories and waistlines, I dreamed of coming home from school to find an iced chocolate cake waiting under a glass dome. More likely I would scratch up some graham crackers, a glass of milk and a couple peaches. I was blessed with abundant homegrown produce, but like any kid I wished for the bakery.

Now we’ve learned too much: we shouldn’t be having the sugars and white stuff. We think every snack should be healthy, yet we’re still looking for ways to make nutritious tidbits tempt our children as much as chocolate chip cookies.

When I thought about my grandchildren munching our homemade granola, I began to work the formula into a bar cookie that could go into a school lunchbox. Yes, there’s some sugar, and I found the best flavor from cones of unrefined, caramely Mexican raw sugar (piloncillo) now available along with packaged dry chilis in supermarkets. A little honey will add to the crunch while minimal butter and olive oil will give the bar rich flavor. Whole grain oatmeal and flax along with some dried fruit and optional nuts or seeds round out this cookie that’s far more nourishing than a bowl of Cheerios.

Homemade Granola Bars

3 oz. brown sugar (3 1-oz. cones piloncillo or ½ cup brown sugar)

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ oz. butter (3 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons pure olive oil

8 oz. dry ingredients including old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 oz. ground flax and a handful of sunflower seeds or chopped almonds (total generous 2 cups)

½ oz. dry unsweetened coconut (¼ cup)

6 oz. dry fruit such as sliced dates, raisins, dried cranberries (one packed cup)

If using piloncillo, place cones in saucepan with water, cover and simmer until sugar has dissolved and formed a thin syrup. If using brown sugar, boil the sugar and water to form a syrup.

To the hot syrup add honey, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, butter and oil. Stir in the oatmeal mixture, coconut and dry fruit. Spread evenly into a buttered 8-inch square tin. Cut through the mixture with a bench scraper or small sharp knife to form 16 squares. Bake the bars in a 325 oven for 30–40 minutes or until deeply golden.

Cut through the score marks again before the bars cool. If bars do not seem crisp enough, return to the turned-off oven and allow them to dry and crisp further as the oven cools. Makes 16 bars and extra crumbs to sprinkle on breakfast cereal.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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