After the latest salad debacle I felt it was time to cook something I felt more confident about so, I turned on the oven. Ina has a whole chapter devoted solely to breakfast, which is my favorite meal of the day. People who know me well also know that this is somewhat ironic since I hate eggs. That's right, I don't like 'em scrambled or boiled, poached or in an omelet. And every time I see someone else enjoying a delicious omelet filled with salty, crunchy bacon, creamy cheese, and fresh veggies, I sigh and wish my palate wasn't so damn picky. But alas...
This still leaves me with all the yummy carbo-loaded breakfast foods like pancakes, home fries (not hash browns), croissants, and bagels. Yummm. But, I'm getting myself off track. And hungry.
There are plenty of good options in Ina's breakfast chapter, but, like I said, I was looking for something relatively stress-free, and decided granola bars were the way to go. I bought all the ingredients about a week before baking, since they are all dry and could be kept in the pantry for a while. This felt sort of like a lazy Sunday project, so this past Sunday I went into the kitchen and started baking. I preheated the oven and prepped the baking dish:
Although I was using a disposable tinfoil pan, I still buttered and lined it with parchment paper, as per the instructions, since you can never be too careful. Next, I measured out old-fashioned oatmeal, sliced almonds, and coconut, and placed these on a sheet pan, before tossing them all together:
This went into the oven and almost as soon as the heat hit the coconut, it started to smell great. It baked for about 10 minutes, with breaks every now and then while I stirred it so it could brown evenly. When I wasn't stirring, I measured and chopped the dried fruit:
Dates on the left, Apricots on the right, and cranberries at the bottom
Once the oatmeal mixture was nice and lightly toasted, I took it out of the oven:
Doesn't look like much now, but believe me, it gets better.
I lowered the oven temperature and then carefully transferred this to a large bowl, trying not to let it scatter all over the floor, and added wheat germ:
I know what you're thinking: Wheat Germ? What could be better than that?!?
Next, I combined butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan on the stove, using up almost my entire stock of honey:
Poor, sad Honey Bear
I put the saucepan over medium heat and waited for the sweet mixture to come to a boil:
Waiting, waiting, waiting
Once it came to a boil, I cooked, stirring for one minute, and then poured it over the toasted oatmeal and wheat germ mixture. I added all the dried fruit and stirred well:
I poured this mixture into the pan, and spread it out evenly. Ina suggests wetting your fingers and pressing the mixture down into the pan, but I found using the back of a wooden spoon worked just fine. I nonetheless wet my fingers anyway (since Ina said so), but just ended up with wet, sticky fingers. I put the pan in the oven and baked it for about 25 minutes until it was light, golden brown like this:
By now, the house smelled coconutty and delicious, but unfortunately for Dan, these have to rest for 2-3 hours before I could cut them into bars. Ina suggests that these are even better the second day, so I actually waited until the next day to cut them into single servings.
At first I was a bit skeptical. I don't like almonds, or really any nut for that matter, and am not a big fan of oatmeal or dried fruit (although thanks to Dan and his Great Grains, I discovered dates aren't actually that bad). But these granola bars far exceeded my expectations. They're chewy and crunchy and sweet, and way better than your average store-bought variety. Thanks to their numerous ingredients and density, they feel fulfilling and satisfying. The only drawback is that they are a bit crumbly, so they may not be the best choice to eat in the car on the way to work, but they make an excellent afternoon snack.
Make this when: you want to impress new neighbors with something other than a boring bundt cake. Just make sure they don't have a nut allergy. Talk about a bad first impression.
Next Course: Homemade Chicken Stock
Next Course: Homemade Chicken Stock