Gra Bars [aka homemade granola bars]

Several years ago, we lived in my brother’s basement. Upstairs were two rowdy toddlers and the older one had a great love for “gra bars”. We usually had store bought ones and he would gobble them up. As I become more and more interested in learning to make all of my food, not just because it’s healthier, but also because it tastes better, I am finding ways to make delicious convenience foods. This year, rather than fill my neighbor gifts full of sugar, I opted to include these granola bars. I don’t know if they liked them (because most people aren’t as food-nerdy as I am) but we did. And we keep loving them.
They are sweet enough, but also salty. They have no added oils, just what comes from the nut butter you use. They have kept well in a plastic zipper bag, and they’re not too dry and not too hard. This recipe is adapted from another, as I liked mine thinner and with a bit of a modification on the ingredients.

Granola Bars
adapted from this recipe
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup pepitas (the green pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 cup very coarsely chopped almonds (or other nut)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup natural nut butter (I’ve tried peanut and almond, and like almond better)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)

Preheat the oven to 325. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat (one of my favorite kitchen things). Next, line a rectangular baking pan (9×13 inches) with two perpendicular sheets of parchment paper that are long enough to leave an overhang. The sheets will form a “basket” for you to lift out the sheet of granola, before you cut it into bars. Or if you do a double batch which works really well, just re-use one of the baking sheets (you’ll need two for toasting) with the Silpat underneath.

Combine the oats, coconut, seeds and nuts; spread out evenly on the rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes. When the oat mixture has been toasting for about 10 minutes, combine the honey, nut butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. If the sugar dissolves before the oat mixture is done toasting, reduce the heat to low.
When the oat mixture is done toasting, transfer it to a large bowl and add the honey mixture and fruit; stir to incorporate. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan, using the back of a wooden spoon or bottom of a measuring cup to press the mixture firmly into the pan and create a smooth, even surface. Bake the granola mixture for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven, press the granola into the pan again, and let it cool completely on a wire rack – I just let it go overnight.
Using your parchment “handles,” lift the granola sheet out of the pan and onto a cutting board. You may either cut or break the granola bars. They are pretty either way, but easier with less crumble if you break them. To cut, use a large sharp knife. Store in an airtight container.

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