Crunchy Granola Bars

                                 

  I got off from work early the other day.  Running out the door before the boss could change her mind, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful blue sky.  It was 73 degrees, sunny and breezy; a perfect day.  I knew right then that it was going to be one of “those” drives home. 

                                

 The windows came down and the stereo went up.  My favorite new fun song, “Soul Sister” came on the radio and I was every teenager’s nightmare on the road; a Mom that sings out loud and with emphasis.  All day long I had planned on coming home and baking granola bars, but each new song on the radio was more upbeat than the last.  By the time I got home I was whipped into a frenzy.

                                

 I ran through the house like a mad woman opening all the windows and doors, blasting the stereo ( we don’t live in military housing anymore) and dancing like a dork in the kitchen.  A couple of dust bunnies moved in the breeze and I realized that I should probably stop all the “silly dancing”, and vaccuum something.

                                 

 Some actual cleaning was accompanied by short breaks to stop and admire the tulips and phlox (all purple and pink and really pretty right now). But it was too late to make granola bars; the moment had passed.  For you see, when these spells overtake you, there’s nothing you can do except go back into the kitchen and dance. Enjoy!

                                

recipe adapted from “Baking Illustrated” by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

published by America’s Test Kitchen

                                

Granola bars are a nice, quick snack to have in your bag while running errands, sitting at your kid’s practice, or just to eat for breakfast with some milk and fruit.

7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (don’t use quick-cooking oats)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups whole almonds, pecans, or walnuts ( I used a mixture of almonds and walnuts)

3/4 cup honey

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and set the temperature to 375 degrees.

2. Line an 18 x 12 inch rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil.

3. Combine the oats, oil and salt in a large bowl and mix until the oats are evenly coated.  Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and spread into an even layer.  Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until pale gold, about 30 minutes. Remove the oats and lower the oven temp to 300 degrees. * I only baked mine 26 minutes and I thought that was too long, next time I will stop at 20 minutes.*

4. Place the nuts in a food processor and process until coarsely chopped.  Remove 3/4 cup (half) the nuts and place in a small bowl.  Process the remaining nuts until they are finely ground (this helps them fill in the nooks and crannies of the bars).  Add the nuts together and set aside.

5. Combine the honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon (if using).

6. Combine the oats, nuts, and honey mixture in a large bowl and stir with a large rubber spatula until the oats are thoroughly coated with the honey mixture. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer.  Wet the spatula with water (several times if necessary) and firmly press the mixture into the pan.  Make a flat, tight, and even layer. Bake until golden, about 45-50 minutes. * I only baked mine for 40 minutes and it was still too much, next time I will start checking it at 30 minutes.*

7. Cool in the baking sheet, on a wire rack, for 10 minutes before cutting.  A bench knife works great for this, but a big chef’s knife works great ,too.  Cut the bars all the way through (about 2 inches by 3 inches is a good size) and then allow the granola bars to completely cool.  Wrap and store. * The bars do harden upon cooling, don’t wait longer than the 10 minutes to cut the bars.*

P.S. I added craisins to the bars and you can’t even taste them, next time I will skip the craisins.  Do not use raisins either as they tend to burn, dry out and shrivel up.

Epilogue of the Blog- I made these granola bars again a few days later to take in to work for truck day.  I baked the oats for 18 minutes, I skipped the craisins and added extra peanuts, and I only baked the bars for about 15 minutes.  They came out crispy, chewy and toasty with just the right whang of cinnamon.

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