So I set out to learn how to make my own. While the Chef held the baby and played with her, I set up in the kitchen: all ingredients arrayed out; saucepan, casserole dish, and big bowl waiting; good music on the player. While he's home, I sometimes take my space and make the kitchen my own again. Half an hour later I was dancing to Bill Frisell and patting down the last of the granola mix into the pan. Life felt good in that moment.
There are so many ways to make granola bars. I was inspired by Heidi Swanson's recipe in Super Natural Cooking and a dozen more I found on the internet. This is really only a template. Find the fruit you like best. Play with cereals and grains. Use honey instead of agave. Just find a way, as I did, to make these. They're sweet and nutritious, crunchy and chewy at the same time, and really quite addictive. And with their density preventing me from eating more than one at a time, they'll be around for a bit, waiting for me in that emergency situation where I have to eat now, but there's no time to eat.
2 cups rolled oats, certified gluten-free
1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup agave nectar syrup
1 cup muscovado brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup brown rice cereal
2 cups mixed dried fruit (here I used mangoes, raisins, and cranberries)
1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a small casserole dish with parchment paper. (If you want thick granola bars, use a small casserole dish. For thin ones, choose a larger casserole dish).
2. Slide the oats and hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and into the oven. Let them toast, turning them once in a while, for about ten minutes.
3. While those are toasting, put the agave nectar syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and sea salt into a saucepan. On medium heat, bring the syrup to a slow boil. Set aside.
4. In a bowl, combine the toasted oats and hazelnuts, the sunflower seeds, brown rice cereal, and dried fruit. Pour the syrup over this concoction and stir it all up, making sure everything is evenly coated.
5. Pat the mixture into the casserole dish, on top of the parchment paper. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Put the dish into the oven to bake.
6. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want the bars to be. Allow them to cool for at least an hour before cutting them up into bars. (You'll probably have to hack at them a bit. These aren't soft granola bars).
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