I made granola bars. I’ve wanted to try my hand at homemade granola for a while, but naturally invention’s mom, necessity, changed my plans. My cousin and I went on a hike in the Catskills this weekend and I thought what better healthy, hand held, nature-friendly treat than the granola bar? Now I could have picked up a box of one of the millions of types of granola bars out there, but where’s the fun in that?
I’d seen both Ina and Giada make their versions of granola bars on their shows. Giada’s for a hike with her husband and Ina’s for Rob Marshall and the entire production staff of the movie Nine. That’s Ina for you. Her’s had a bit too much butter for such a healthy activity snack, so I modified a figure-friendlier recipe from The Daily Green. It called for pecans and dried cranberries as the add-ins, but the best thing about these crunchy treats — you can stir in whatever you’d like to shake them up. I went with almonds, dried cranberries, raisins, and puffed rice. Basically I was trying to create my own version of my favorite st0re-bought granola bar, Nature Valley’s Chew Trail Mix Fruit & Nut bar. And I’d say I succeeded, and then some!
It’s amazing how fast the pan of plain, white oats goes from boring to bursting with flavor after a few minutes in the oven. They turn golden brown (with the occasional toss from a wooden spoon) and fill your kitchen with a wonderfully oaty aroma. Once toasted, the oats pretty much just sit and wait their turn to be mixed into the batter.
Now, granola bars need to be sticky. The sticky is what makes them, well, stick together in bar-form. In this case, the stickiness comes from an egg, an egg white, a cup of brown sugar, and about a tablespoon of canola oil. A little salt, vanilla, and cinnamon also go in as flavor boosters. After some brisk whisking, these ingredients form the perfect caramel-like stickiness to hold in all the goodies that are about to be incorporated.
This is where the imagination takes over. You could seriously mix anything into this batter. Next time I might get a little crazy with some peanuts and chocolate chips. The craziness might continue when I add peanut butter to the batter. Madness, I know. Sweet, delicious madness.
Granola bars are surprisingly easy to whip up because you really just need a bowl and a spoon. I know, I know, the girl with brand new stand mixer is using a wooden spoon. But trust me, I have great plans that involve that beauty. Stay tuned.
Because of all the aforementioned stickiness, this batter can be tricky to get into a pan. I covered my glass baking pan with foil and sprayed it with nonstick spray to be sure. The oats and nuts and dried fruit soak up all the gooey wet ingredients and make an intoxicatingly sweet and crunchy blob of goodness. I divided said blob in half to make two separate batches of bars, since I was using a slightly smaller pan than recommended.
I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. I never thought the sticky mass that I pressed into the pan would ever turn into anything resembling a ‘bar’. But my worries were in vain. After some cooling time, I was able to slide the foil right out of the pan and what I had on my hands was actually one massive granola bar. When it was completely cool, I merely peeled the foil off and sliced the giant mama granola bar into little baby ones.
It’s like a little army of tasty, nutritious snacks. I was really pleased with how they turned out, especially since I’d never done anything like this before. As much as I love the ease of snagging a pre-packaged granola bar and heading out the door, there was definitely an added element of satisfaction to making them from scratch. They were that much heartier, filling, and scrumptious. And they certainly kept up our energy on the hike…
Look how happy and energized we are! I don’t think we could have made it all the way up that mountain without the energy boost from these naturally tasty bars. I see a lot more granola bar-making in my future. The possibilities are endless. Yay nature!