Mmm! Mm! Good!
Okay... ever since I went to a food storage activity night and heard a comment about how we are so stuck on processed foods these days... how we buy these "granola bars" that we think are so healthy and yet are packed with HFC (high-fructose corn syrup) and other crazy stuff and we buy "fruit snacks" that really have nothing to do with fruit, etc. I have been thinking about making my own homemade granola bars (I'm still sticking with fruit snacks, though! What can I say? I'm still somewhat of a kid at heart :)). I started checking for some recipes online but still found a bunch of corn starch, sugar, etc in all these bars and never really settled on anything. And then I came across THIS recipe. After reading through some of the rave comments for them, I decided these had to be worth a shot. And seriously! They're so good! They're way better than what you buy in the store, way cheaper, and way healthier! Is there a down side to this?! ...Other than that now I will be having to make my granola bars instead spending two seconds to throw them in my grocery cart? ...but actually, that's half the fun too! And really it is, because this recipe is so versatile that you can customize it to be pretty much anything you want! I didn't have all the things the recipe called for, so I just used what I had on hand and they turned out fabulous. SO... give them a try. Click on the link for the original recipe, (plus she has great pictures for each step!) but here's the recipe that I made...
Homemade Granola Bars
-2 cups oats
-3/4 cup flax seed (half of that was milled and half just regular seeds)
-1/2 cup coconut
-1/4 cup chopped pecans
-3/4 cup chopped walnuts
-2/3 cup brown sugar
-1/2 cup honey
-4 Tbsp butter
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 tsp Kosher salt
-about 1 cup dried fruit (I used Craisins);
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
-Mix the oats, nuts, flax seed, and coconut on a baking dish (with sides) and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, stirring every few minutes so that they don't get burned.
-While they're toasting, get a 9x13 glass baking dish and line it with parchment paper (you can use wax paper with a nonstick spray if you don't have parchment, but be aware that you may end up having to pick wax paper out of your granola bars! -don't say I didn't warn you!)
-Put the brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla, and salt into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stirring constantly. (Don't forget to check on your toasting mixture as well!)
-Once it comes to a simmer, remove it from heat. And your grain/nut mixture should be done now too, so take it out of the oven (and you can turn the oven off too... we're done using it).
-Throw the toasted mixture into a large bowl and power the melted mixture on top, along with your dried fruit. And mix, mix, mix.
-Mix some more. :) You want to make sure that everything gets coated with the "glue".
-Dump your granola mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread it out as evenly as possible.
-Using another piece of parchment (or wax paper, but again, watch out for sticking), press down HARD all over the top of the granola. You want to compact it together so the bars won't fall apart when you cut them.
-Wait 2-3 hours, or until the granola has completely cooled.
-Turn the granola onto a large cutting board and peel away what is now the top layer of parchment paper.
-Cut the granola into bars by firmly pressing down with a big cutting knife (not sawing). You can make the bars whatever size you like, but if you make them the general "granola bar" size, you should be able to get 18-20 bars out of this.
-Finally, you can either wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap so they're ready to grab and go, or you can just store them in an airtight container (with a piece of parchment placed between any layers).
Ta-da! Homemade granola bars. Enjoy! They're tasty!
Also, if you read through the comments on the original recipe, there are options for substituting things like agave syrup for the sugar, or reducing the amount of sugar and honey and adding some peanut butter instead... stuff like that. Really, you can just play with it and make it to your tastes! Have fun!