I have a hard time making it from breakfast to lunch without a snack. I usually eat good, healthy breakfasts, yet somehow I'm always hungry for lunch at 11am.
When I was working in the office every day, there were always unhealthy snack options around. If I walked around to the different kitchens, I could usually find muffins, bagels and donuts leftover from morning meetings. If I went to the coffee shop downstairs, I could buy a fattening (but yummy) croissant. Sometimes I remembered to stash some granola bars in my desk drawer, but I never found a brand I really liked. So, I decided to try making my own granola bars for a mid-morning snack. It couldn't be that hard, right? Right. These are super easy to make. The best part about them is that they're so flexible--you can really add any ingredients you want. Oh, and they're relatively healthy. Especially when compared to the processed muffins and donuts I was eating before.
Since this recipe can be customized, I'll give you the ingredients you need and then those you might need...and then I'll tell you a few combinations that I happen to love...
Ingredients you'll DEFINITELY need:
2 cups of oats (use the old fashioned oats, not the quick ones)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or regular salt)
Ingredients you MIGHT need (choose a few):
1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc)
1/2 cup crushed banana chips
1/2 cup ground flaxseed (you know, for the nutritional benefits...)
1 cups dried fruit (cherries, raisins, apricots, craisins, etc.)
1/2 cup chocolate chips / white chocolate chips
How to do it:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Spread out the nuts and oats (maybe flaxseed and / or banana chips) on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. You might want to mix it around after 5 minutes. (Note: Do NOT toast the fruit or chocolate!)
While your mixture is toasting, melt the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla over medium heat. Stir constantly.
After the toasted mixture cools off for a few minutes, mix in fruit, chocolate and other ingredients that you didn't toast. (Note: if you want to mix in chocolate, make sure the mixture is all cooled off or you'll have melted chocolate.) Pour the butter / sugar / honey mixture onto the dry mixture and mix it together until it's all coated.
Line a 12x8 inch pan (I use this one) with wax paper. Pour the mixture into the pan and spread it out evenly. Put another piece of wax paper on top of the mixture and press it down. Press it hard. You want the granola-like mixture to hold together into a bar. Once you've pressed the mixture together, let it dry and set for 30-60 minutes. I like to put mine in the refrigerator because it makes the bars easier to cut. Take off the wax paper, then cut and individually wrap them. And there you have it--healthy, mid-morning, taste great with coffee, snacks. (Side note: I usually don't take these for hiking or biking trips because they're not quite as sturdy as your typical snack bar. They'll still taste great....but may be more like granola than granola bars.)
A few combos I like... (let me know if you have some new ideas I should try)
Almond, dried cherry (maybe with white chocolate)
Banana chips, walnut, raisin
Walnut, raisin, chocolate chip