One of the things about food and grocery stores that is so frustrating to me is that the healthy stuff is so much more expensive. I know that this is because healthy food is made with less preservatives, high fructose corn syrup (my arch-nemesis) and modified corn and soybean ingredients. As a side note I heard an underwriting ad for Monsanto today on NPR. It made me want to cry because they tried to pass themselves off as a company concerned with saving the earth's resources. Ha. I saw Food Inc. and King Corn, I know what you're up to Monsanto!
Anyhow. Where was I? Oh right, healthy things are expensive. I have no issue paying more for better food - organic fruits and vegetables and hormone and anti-biotic free meat - but the price of granola bars is ridiculous. I don't want six little bars for four dollars! But I tend to get cranky when I don't eat and when I work on pre-production for music videos like this I often don't eat for 8 hours at a time. So, I thought to myself, I'm sure I could make my own granola bars that are even a bit healthier than the ones found in stores! And so, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I did on this lovely Thursday afternoon.
I scoured the Internet and food blogs for recipes that seemed like they would be easy and delicious. But honestly, most of them contained things I really didn't want in my granola bars. I was looking for something that wouldn't be too sweet and would be full of protein and would keep me full for a little while. So, I made my own recipe based on what I read. My first original recipe!
These are fairly sweet. At first I thought they were too sweet, but after cutting them up and wrapping them individually I've stored them in the fridge and they've mellowed a bit. Next time perhaps I'll adjust the amount of honey and maybe use peanut butter instead but this time I was worried about the "glue" not being strong enough so I used variations of other recipes. They are delicious though, just as they are.
This recipe is really just a guide. If you don't like sunflower seeds you can use some other kind of seed or nut. Basically anything you think would be delicious can go in here.
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup peanuts, crushed
1/4 cup almonds, chopped*
1/2 cup brown sugar**
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces of dried fruit (raisins and cranberries are what I used but apricots, apples, dates, figs etc. would be delicious I'm sure)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment or waxed paper that extends a bit over the ends of the pan, sprayed lightly with vegetable cooking spray.
1. Crush the peanuts by putting them in a plastic bag and using a heavy jar or pan to crush them.
2. Mix the nuts, oats, wheat germ, and seeds in a baking pan with sides. Toast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes stirring every 4 minutes to prevent things from burning. Once everything is finished toasting turn the oven off and let the mixture cool a bit.
3. Meanwhile, put the brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. The mixture should look fairly evenly colored and everything should be melted together.
4. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a wooden spoon, making sure that the "glue" coats all of the nut mixture and the dried fruit. Scoop the mixture into the parchment lined pan spreading it evenly. Put a small piece of saran wrap between your hands and the granola bars and push down hard to compact everything into the pan. Allow to cool completely - I put mine in the fridge for two hours.
5. Once cooled, lift the granola bars out of the pan and use a sharp knife to cut into bars, wrap in plastic wrap for individual bars on the go or keep them in an air tight container. I keep mine in the fridge because I like mine nice and firm.
*Almonds are miserable to chop. I will probably use cashews or something next time - or just buy sliced almonds...or a food processor.
** Many recipes seemed to use 2/3 or even 3/4 cup of brown sugar. I cut the amount thinking that with all the honey it might be too sweet. I might even cut it a bit more because they were so sweet.