Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Delicious Caramelized Chewy Granola Bars

Since many of the snack foods our family used to use for camping trips or just regular outings are no longer an option for us, I've had to find some recipes and start making our own healthier snacks. This recipe I found for homemade granola bars looked like a winner to me. We used to buy the trail mix or almond-y version of granola bars. My kids love the chewier texture and also seem to like the nuts & dried fruit. So I attempted a combination of the two. 


I used this recipe from Food Network as a base, and just added and substituted as I thought necessary. Here is what I came up with:


Caramelized Chewy Granola Bars
4 cups old-fashioned oats (we love Bob's Red Mill, but good old Quaker works too)
1 cup bashed (do you know how hard it is to slice these guys?) almonds 
Crushed walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds to taste
1 cup shredded coconut
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (or more-kids measured) dried cranberries

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Line a large pan with parchment paper. I used my sheet cake pan, and it wasn't quite completely filled, but made for perfect bar thickness.

Mix the oats, nuts and coconut together on a sheet cake pan and bake for 10 minutes. I just added nuts until it looked like a ratio that we would like with the oats. The recipe is very forgiving. Add what you would like to customize your own bars. Stir a few times while cooking, until it's light brown & nice & toasty.

While this is toasting, add butter, honey, nectar brown sugar, vanilla and salt to a large saucepan and melt at medium heat on the stovetop. Bring this to a boil and stir and boil for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Dump toasted oats mixture from the oven into a very large bowl and stir. Pour melted butter/honey mixture from saucepan over the oats and stir with a strong large spoon until oats & nuts are coated. Add any dried fruit, and  coat that as well. 

Pour the coated granola mixture onto your parchment lined pan and spread as evenly as possible. Wet the back of the spoon with a bit of warm water to help smooth it out. Try to smoosh into the bar-thickness you'd prefer.

Place tray into the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Mine baked at 300 degrees in my convection oven for 20 minutes and was perfectly brown and bubbly. Take care not to over-bake. 

Remove when golden brown.

Cool for several hours (mine took 2) before cutting into bars or squares. 


These bars are delicious and very versatile. You can change up the ingredients to suit your own tastes. I had planned on drizzling ours with chocolate, but they were so sweet and caramel-ly delicious, I didn't want to change a thing. If you do use chocolate chips, I have read a tip that says to freeze your chips, and add them after mixture is semi-cooled. Other dried fruits would be delicious in this as well (cherries, pineapples, apricots, blueberries, etc.) just use whatever you have on hand. I'm looking forward to coming up with more creative mixtures in the future.

Enjoy!

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