Monday, November 8, 2010

Granola Bars

In a time when flights are cheaper than ever, when every city is flexing its culinary muscles, and when even airports have wine bars, I'm about to say something controversial.  I don't care much for travel. 

Don't get me wrong, I like nothing more than wandering through a new city, stopping for a mid-afternoon drink just because, and enjoying public transportation (yes Angelenos, other cities have trains and buses that take you all around the city for a nominal fee!  What an idea!).  But the airports.  And the luggage.  And the $4 bottles of water, the lack of power outlets, the recirculated air, and the inadequate cabin lights!  By the time I touch down on the East Coast, I'm usually wildly envious of the three year old who gets to throw a tantrum in baggage claim.

This weekend John and I headed to the Big Apple for a little race called the New York Marathon.  I have a lot to say about Chelsea Market, my love affair with Brooklyn, an epic bakery crawl, and of course, the race itself.  But before we ran around the city eating everything in sight, we had to endure 10 hours of travel.  In an effort to make the day more pleasant, less expensive, and to keep me from becoming a hypoglycemic maniac, I gave myself a little TLC in snack form.

I found these granola bars on Smitten Kitchen last year, and they were a revelation.

Made from whole ingredients including my fall favorite, honey, not too sweet, and infinitely adaptable, these granola bars are delightful.  And so so easy.  If you're a regular granola bar eater, give these some thought next time you're in the grocery store.  The homemade version will stretch your dollar, and are probably a bit healthier too.

Granola Bars
 From Smitten Kitchen
In addition to being a great flight companion, these are perfect for curbing hunger in your hotel room between meals, or in the early morning when your travel partner snoozes through the breakfast hour and into the brunch hour.  Take that room service!

I didn't make any changes to Deb's recipe, but I could see them working well with dried apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon, or drizzled with a bit of chocolate or peanut butter ganache.  Or speckled with those mini chocolate chips that everyone loves.  Don't be afraid to experiment, and be sure to report back and let me know how it goes.

Makes 12 to 16 granola bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I used sweetened)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup dried fruit, or a mix of dried fruit (I used chopped apricots, cranberries and raisins)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter an 9×13-inch baking dish.

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°F.

While the mixture is still warm, stir in the honey, vanilla and salt until the mixture is well coated, then the dried fruit. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and press, press, press it in (wet fingers and/or a silicon spatula work great for this) until the mixture is packed as tightly as possible.  This is crucial to having bars that hold together in the end, so really go for it!

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares — your best serrated knife is great for this.

You can store these in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two, but they also store well and stay crisp in the freezer.  Happy travels!


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