In my mind, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It doesn’t have to be a big production, but it’s essential that it happens. We go through phases at my house, but common breakfasts include egg sandwiches, smoothies, and oatmeal with fresh fruit. All delicious, all easy, all prepared by me since my darling husband doesn’t cook. (His line: “Why should I learn when you’re so good at it?”🙂 I suppose this is why I haven’t “learned” to haul the trash to the curb on Tuesday mornings.) Anyway, I’m happy to help him get a good start to the day during the first part of the week when his office opens a bit later, but Thursday and Friday mornings are killer. In trying to come up with a grab-and-go solution that was more substantial than a banana or a cup of yogurt, I found a great recipe: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars. They’re soft, chewy, delicious, and filling, and the recipe is infinitely adaptable depending on what you have in the pantry.
Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes plus cooling | Yield: 16 bars
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds (6 ounces)
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1/3 cup creamy almond butter or other nut butter
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup honey and butter over low. Cook, stirring, until butter melts, 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, and pinch of salt. Drizzle honey mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine; wipe saucepan clean. Spread mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely on sheet, 10 minutes. Return to large bowl and add raisins; stir to combine.
Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish. In saucepan, combine 1/2 cup honey, almond butter, and brown sugar over medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and sugar dissolves, 10 minutes. Drizzle over oat mixture and stir until combined; transfer to baking dish. With a spatula, firmly press granola into dish. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, then cut into 16 bars or squares.
Source: Everyday Food, March 2011
Holy deliciousness, these are good. The taste is very similar to the soft packaged granola bars you can buy at the store, but I think they hold their shape better because they aren’t as gooey. Plus, you get to skip all the preservatives that keep the store-bought ones edible for months; these will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for five days (unless they’re gobbled up sooner!). I ended up using creamy peanut butter, slivered almonds, and a combination of raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries for my bars. The flavor profile was terrific. I can’t wait to experiment with other combinations like cashew and cherry or maybe macadamia nut with coconut and dried apricots. The possibilities are endless!
Update 7/29/11: I made these again last night, and they were terrible. I re-made them this morning, and they were wonderful. The difference? I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for too long last night. If you’ve ever made candy before, you know the longer you cook sugar and the hotter it gets, the thicker and firmer it gets when it cools. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cook the mixture for 10 minutes once it began to boil. I knew something was wrong when I added the cooked mixture to the oats and fruit; it didn’t incorporate very well and some of the oats still seemed dry even after I had stirred and stirred. When I went to cut the bars after I had chilled them, they were crispy (in a hard-to-eat way, not a good way). This morning, I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for 10 minutes total, starting with the moment I turned on the burner. You could even shave a minute or two off if you want your bars to be super soft; just make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and you have a homogenous mixture. Live and learn!
Recipe link: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars