Monday, April 26, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars from Ina Garten

My lovely student assistant Anne Kenealy was the fortunate recipient last week of a "care package" from her mom. It contained, among other things, a box of individually wrapped, homemade granola bars. They were beautiful rectangles of nutritional chewy goodness, and she shared one with me. Now I can't wait to make my own. The great thing about granola bars is that they can be customized to your own tastes. Like nuts? Add those. More fruit? Do that. Craving chocolate? Throw in some semi-sweet chips. Anne sent me the recipe her mother uses, with the following notation:

"Here's my mom's granola bar recipe, which she said she got from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics Cookbook. She said, 'I usually only add apricots and sour cherries (from Trader Joes) instead of dates and cranberries. I've also made them with golden raisins if I'm out of apricots and sour cherries.'"

Thanks to Anne, and to Anne's mom, and once again to my favorite cook, Ina Garten.

Homemade Granola Bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 x 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt ina small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

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