CHEWY ‘N CRUNCHY GRANOLA BARS

It took me a long time to embrace granola, it just wasn’t something I want to try or enjoy.  I looked at photos of granola and there was not much eye appeal; granolas appeared just another mix of oats and all the dried fruits and mixed nuts.  Then I chanced upon Ina’s (Barefoot Contessa) making granola bars in her Food Network show and it was kind of magical, I suddenly had a desire to make one.  So that is the background.    But I just wasn’t too crazy following Ina’s recipe, I just loved a simple one but with lots of “healthy things” that I could find in my pantry.   So I have dates (I keep a container for my Food for the Gods recipe for my baking school), chocolate chips (a must for my diva divine brownies that I love baking almost every month for my chocolate indulgence), craisins (preferred to raisins for bright red colors for salads, cakes, etc) and dried mangoes.   So there’s no stopping me from making my chewy and crunchy (thanks to crunchy peanut butter!) granola bars.  My hubby Glenn requests to include 2 sandwich packs of granola bars in his lunch pack.    And really to my surprise, there are lots who wouldn’t even want to touch granola bars, more so eat them.  But those who dared to taste my granola bars just couldn’t resist munching bars after bars.  And now they want my recipe.

CHEWY ‘N CRUNCHY GRANOLA BARS

Needing a good start to your day or perhaps wanting a delicious “something different” afternoon snack? Here’s one perfect treat to help you survive your daily grind — loaded with fiber and protein, and is in a “bar” form. So quick-to-fix too and definitely better than store-bought, and yes, create your own mix with different dried fruits and nuts.

BINDER:

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup (you may substitute 1/4 cup corn syrup with agave nectar)

1 stick margarine, melted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

GRANOLA MIX:

3 cups old fashioned oats

1/3 cup wheat germ

2 cups dried fruits and nuts (1/2 cup each of snipped dates, craisins, snipped dried mangoes and coarsely chopped cashew nuts)

1 cup semi sweet choco chips

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a large rectangular baking pan with cooking oil spray and line with parchment or aluminum foil that extend over the sides of the pan (for easy removal). Spray again with cooking oil spray.

In a large bowl, beat together binder ingredients, using an electric mixer. Add the granola mix and stir until well-combined. Press the granola bar mix into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Lift the slab of granola bars from the pan using the overhanging foil or parchment paper as handles and transfer to a cutting board. Cool for 5 minutes and cut to desired bars while they are still warm. Cool completely.

Notes:

1) Allow the granola bars to cool completely before storing so that it becomes crunchy.

2) The granola bars will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days, then store in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Freeze the bars for longer storage.

3) Wheat germ has high oil content so store the opened wheat germ in the refrigerator or freezer.

4) Sprinkle loose or crumbled bars on: top of flavored yogurt and fresh fruit slices, ice cream, top of banana bread or muffines before baking, etc.

5) Create your own blend with these substitutions: Sweeteners (agave nectar, maple syrup), Dried fruits (dried blueberries, dried pineapple, dried apricots), Nuts (sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans)

2 Granola bars packed in sandwich bags make a great energy bar treat for hardworking “men of the house”.

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