Granola Bars

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When my husband had to plan an eleven hour road trip to pick up the children from their new home, I had a bit of a freak out. I really shouldn’t freak out nearly as much as I do, but I hate the sinking feeling when you haven’t planned well and crap is hitting the fan because of it. My mind was flooded with the idea of three kids complaining about being hungry and “are we there yet,” quickly progressing to a sibling war and then to angry parents. For eleven hours. Strangely, the trip went phenomenally. But in the process of my over planning, I decided to make homemade granola bars. They only ate one on the road trip (yes between four people, only one was eaten), but when we visited grandma’s the next day, everyone devoured them.

The original recipe is from Once Upon a Chef. I’ve made a few changes, and have some additional ideas for changes as well. My recipe is a peanut butter chocolate chip, but you can probably do other flavors as well. You can add nuts/seeds (sliced almonds, minced walnuts or pecans, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds), dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried bananas, dehydrated apples, or kiwi, peaches even!), even candy (chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, mini M&Ms, butterscotch chips). A couple of flavor combinations that might taste nommie are almond and dried cranberries; cinnamon and dehydrated apples or raisins; white chocolate chips and coarsely chopped macadamia nuts; sunflower seed and dehydrated fruit (like banana chips and kiwi); white chocolate chip and dried peaches, add cocoa and do chocolate chocolate chip. Those are just a couple variations that might work.

I highly suggest gathering and pre measuring the ingredients first. I found myself running around like a chicken when I made them again today. Especially because I was trying to take photographs with my cell phone. Sadly my one camera is missing in action with all my packing (that and something is stuck inside one of the lenses), and my newer one’s battery is MIA as well. So sorry guys, photo quality will be seriously sub par.

Prepare a 9X13 pan by lining it with foil or parchment paper and very lightly greasing it.

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Toss butter into a medium large pot. My “2 1/2 quart” is too small, so pot not sauce pan. I have the heat on medium. The original recipe says medium high, but on my electric burner I have it set to a 4. Mostly because I didn’t pre measure the next ingredients, and didn’t want to risk burning the butter.

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Add brown sugar, I’m always a fan of dark brown sugar. This is supposedly dark, but it looks like normal brown sugar to me. It’s a problem I have.  I can only get what I consider dark brown sugar at an Amish market. But I refuse to settle with light brown sugar.

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Add the agave syrup. I used honey the first time (as the original recipe calls for), and. . . I thought that the first 2 days the granola bars tasted strongly of honey.  That really upset me, because I used my no one cares clover honey instead of one of my others like star thistle or a local wild honey that tastes like cherries. If you didn’t know, honey tastes different based on the plant(s) the bees went to. Clover is, in my humble opinion, a blah honey. It’s fine when the flavor doesn’t matter much (like adding in baking recipes), but I will almost never slather it on a slice of warm bread. This time to avoid that strong clover honey flavor, I used a more neutral flavored agave syrup. You could probably use corn syrup (gasp). I just don’t have any on hand right now. That and people give it a bad rep.

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Now keep stirring this sucker. Get it all blended, and bring it to a boil, the whole surface has that pretty bubbling texture. Check to see if the sugar is dissolved. You don’t want sugar granules. In the time it took me to grab out my next ingredients (2 minutes of so), it was ready to go. If its boiling and still has sugar chunkies, lower heat and continue stirring until it looks like a smooth syrup. (If you want to add cocoa, I suggest about 1/4 cup and add it when you add the butter/agave syrup and brown sugar).

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Remove from heat and add the salt.

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Add the vanilla.

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And if you’re like me and enjoy peanut butter, add a generous spoonful of chunky peanut butter (this way you also have bits of peanuts in it too!) I didn’t add peanut butter the first time, but I really really love it. Stir it up until the peanut butter dissolves.

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Add quick cooking oats. Not the old-fashioned kind, which are dear to my heart, but the quick cooking. If all you have is old-fashioned, I hope you have a blender or food processor – just toss some in there and pulse a couple of times to chop up the old-fashioned oats into smaller bits.

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Add “puffed rice” or rice krispies.

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Add flax meal (aka ground flax-seed). Now, I have flax meal on hand. I bought a huge bag from Costco on a whim, and love adding it randomly to just about any baked good. But if you were like me 2 years ago, you’re thinking “DARN! This recipe was perfect until that random weird flax meal!” If you have wheat germ you can add that. Oat or wheat bran might work. Or take that food processor or blender, add some oats and whir away until you get a powder (aka oat flour) Don’t worry if it’s slightly chunky I’m sure it’ll be fine. And if you absolutely don’t want to do that then. . . go ahead and try flour or some other thing. It’s only a 1/4 cup. You might even be able to omit it.

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Now mix everything well. If you decide you want to add nuts, seeds, or dehydrated fruit do so here.

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I transferred to my prepared pan and loosely spread it out. This is mostly to let it cool before I add my chocolate chips and peanut butter chips to prevent significant melting. The first two times I used mini M&Ms. If I stirred it in while in the pot or when the mixture was still hot my beautiful minis melted. I tried pressing them into the top if the granola bars, but they didn’t seem to want to stay put. So this time, when I’m using mini chocolate chips, I’m letting the mixture cool slightly. Oh I only gave it about a minute or so, just enough time to grab my chips from the freezer and measure them out.

Add the mini chocolate chips. Add the peanut butter chips. I could not find minis of these, so I tried (and failed) to chop them into smaller pieces. Alas.

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Gently mix the chips and granola mixture.

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Press  the mixture into the 9X13. I highly suggest using parchment paper to help with this. My hands had lots of little starting to melt bits of chocolate on them. Heck, if you’re extra OCD, go ahead and also use a rolling-pin to make it more even, and be able to press it better.

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Here’s where I realised I forgot to clear a shelf in the refrigerator. You need to refrigerate the granola bars for between an hour and two hours, or until you have time to chop up and wrap it.

Remove the pan from the fridge, and use the aluminum foil to lift the granola bars out of the pan. Set it down on a cutting board, and decide how you want to cut it. I originally planned to cut it into 24 pieces, what I actually did was 22 pieces. Feel free to use a ruler or just wing it. You can cut it into bars like I did or squares if that suits your fancy better.

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After cutting decide how you want to store them. I like to individually wrap them in wax paper so I can toss them in a lunch box, but you can also just put them in a Tupperware container and store it in a cool place. For the wax paper I cut a bunch of six-inch strips and then cut those in half creating rough 6X6 inch squares. mind you, those measurements are just guesses, I just pull and rip usually.

Put the granola bar horizontally on the piece of wax paper, about an inch from the bottom.

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Fold up the bottom to cover the granola bar, and then fold in the sides.

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Roll the bar up. there should be a bit of wax paper left.

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Either finish rolling it and tape it, or tuck the tail into the pocket that was formed when you started to roll it up. Then tape to seal.

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Voila! You’re done. A bit of advice, especially if you have helpers in making this. Plan on everyone eating at least one before it’s stored. So don’t bother wrapping some of them. Or, you can plan to have a couple for dessert or snack today and wrap the rest.

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I made this the second time with the kids, and they had it for their 2-4pm snack, and for lunch and asked for it for dessert. Something about this granola bar was awesome. Meanwhile, I just though it was a decent granola bar that used ingredients I had on hand. Sometimes kids are easy to please.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bar

makes 24 1X4in granola bars

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons agave syrup or honey (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Heaping spoonful of chunky peanut butter (up to 1/4 cup) optional
  • 2 cups quick cooking/instant oatmeal
  • 1 3/4 cup Rice Krispies
  • 1/4 flax meal
  • 1/3 cup (or more) mini chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter chips

Directions

  1. Line a 9X13 pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
  2. Combine butter, brown sugar, and agave syrup in a large pot.
  3. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil stirring continually.
  4. Once boiling, check to make sure sugar is dissolved. If not, reduce heat and continue stirring until sugar dissolves.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Add salt, vanilla, and peanut butter. Stir until peanut butter dissolves.
  7. Add oats, rice krispies, and flax meal. Mix until well combined.
  8. Transfer mixture to prepared 9X13 pan and lightly spread out. Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Sprinkle chocolate chips and peanut butter chips across mixture. Gently stir to combine.
  10. Firmly press mixture into the pan. It needs to be tightly compacted.
  11. Put pan in refrigerator for 1-2 hours to cool.
  12. Use the foil to lift the granola from the pan to a cutting board. Cut into 24 1inX4in bars.
  13. Individually wrap the bars with wax paper. Store in a cool location or in the refrigerator.
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