Monday, January 4, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

Gabe comes from an amazing family. They're great. They're fun, they love to cook awesome food, they love grits, what's not to love? That being said, he looks absolutely nothing like them.

This is Gabe's mom, Sarah.

She's the head of a great library in Sitka, AK.

She actually dresses nothing like this. When this picture was taken, she was trying to parody herself. She's got a great sense of humor. I freaking love this family.

Anyhow, at a very young age he was crossing the border into Canada from Washington with his mother and grandmother on their way to Alaska, where Gabe's mom lives to this day. The border guard, being wary of the recent rash of child kidnappings at the time, asked him to 'point to your mommy'. Lucky for Sarah, she raised a very loyal son.

Gabe's grandmother and matriarch of the family, Momma Sally, is the sweetest person you've ever met. Gabe often reminds me not to be fooled by her sweet demeanor. She is an absolute firecracker and fiercely independent, still living on her own in California, even in her 80's. Any preconceived notions about Sally went out the window when we visited her this summer and found that she was on her roof by herself washing the windows since she knew she was having company over. Not only that, Sally also likes to spend the cool summer evenings sleeping under the stars on her back patio on a comfy futon, which she sets up nightly. Again, Sally is amazing and full of surprises.

Having grown up in the midwest, Sally is a woman after my own heart. She saves her bacon grease, cooks with real butter, salts liberally but eats everything in moderation. This Christmas, Sally was sweet enough to send us some pecans, dates and chocolate turtles (the latter last around our house long enough to survive this post). I always have pecans around to put in oatmeal or to make cookies but Sally's pecans were extra fresh. And I've never had dates in my pantry before but these dates Sally sent were really sweet and still moist for dried fruit.

In honor of her thoughtful gift, I decided to post this recipe of granola bars that I make all the time. These are super for throwing in the lunch box as a snack or a quick breakfast to go. I encourage you to use your own favorite dried fruits and nuts, this granola is super adaptable.

Homemade Granola Bars

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics Cookbook

2 c. old fashion rolled oats
2 c. nuts/seeds, roughly - I used:
- 1/2 c. almonds
- 1/3 c. sunflower seeds
- 1/2 c. walnuts
- 1/2 c. pecans
1/2 c. wheat germ
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut

4 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, optional
1.5 c. dried fruits, roughly - I used:
- 2/3 c. raisins
- 2/3 c. dates
- 1/4 c. dried cranberries

Preheat the oven at 350ºF. Mix the coconut, oats, seeds (if using), wheat germ and nuts on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes to toast everything.

Now, while that stuff is toasting, get the other cast of characters together.

In a small saucepan add butter, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, salt and honey.

If you spray the measuring cup with a little cooking spray or rub with a little oil, the honey slips right out. Don't waste anything!

Sorry for the microscopic text. Was trying something new. I'll make it bigger next time.

Turn on medium heat and when the mixture just comes to a boil, turn the heat off and set aside.

In a 9" x 13" pan, butter and line with parchment paper. Set aside. Get the dried fruits measured.

When the oven mixture is lightly toasted, transfer to a large bowl.

Toss in dried fruit.

Drizzle butter mixture over everything and mix until everything is evenly coated.

Transfer the mix into the pan and press down firmly to pack everything in.

You don't need pack the granola too hard, it's just to ensure everything is stuck together so everyone doesn't fall apart when you go to cut it.

There you go.

My mom's suggestion, sesame seeds:

Bake at 300ºF for about 30 minutes. Then I turn the oven off an let them bake in there for another 10 minutes. It's also really important to wait to cut these things. If you don't let them completely cool, you're going to have some super crumbly globs of granola, not bars. I'd even wait overnight.

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