It’s hard to believe summer vacation is already coming to a close and students are going back to school. As a kid, I loved all the hustle and bustle associated with the return to classes in late summer. In many ways, it felt more like the start of a new year than New Year’s Day itself. The fresh beginning of a school year felt ripe with infinite new possibilities, and despite mourning the end of summer fun, I always felt eager and primed for soaking up new knowledge.
My mom always placed a lot of importance on eating well at school. Part of the challenge at this time of year is that everyone is so busy. Having something quick and healthy on-hand for hungry moments is key, both for kids and adults. These granola bars are easy to make and deliciously chewy and crispy. They’re a nutritious and satisfying snack chockfull of good ingredients and only sweetened with honey (and chocolate chips if you wish). Best of all, when you make them yourself, you know exactly what goes in them and you can customize them to suit your tastes.
I was hoping to make this recipe with our very own organically-grown rolled oats, which I’m so excited about this year. Aren’t they beautiful?
But our oats aren’t quite ready to harvest and I wanted to get this recipe out to you this week.
A few words about the recipe. I like my granola bars more on the nutty side (not too much dried fruit) so I use a combination of pumpkin seeds, pecans, coconut, and dried cranberries. But please feel free to modify these ingredients to suit your own tastes. You could use dried apricots, almonds, sunflower seeds, dried apples, candied ginger, the options are endless. As long as you stick to 2 cups in total of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds (the chocolate chips are an optional add-on, in addition to the 2 cups). Many granola bar recipes out there call for corn syrup or sugar and I’ve experimented extensively with various recipes in order to avoid them altogether because I like my granola bars to feel healthier than a cookie or candy bar, and not as sweet. I fiddled with it quite a bit and found that combining honey, butter, and almond butter gave these bars the exact taste and texture I was going after: crispy but still chewy, sweet but not too sweet, easily slice-able, and no crumbly bits!
Wishing you a happy and healthy back-to-school season!
Back-to-School Granola Bars
- 1 cup rolled oats (preferably not instant oats)
- 1 1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
- 3 tbsp flour (gluten-free flour will work)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips for the top (optional)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
- Place the oats, pumpkin seeds, and chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes in a 300F oven, stirring once or twice. Leave the oven on.
- In a large bowl mix the crispy rice cereal, flour, coconut, cranberries, salt, and cinnamon. Add the toasted oats mixture and mix all together.
- In a small saucepan, bring the honey and butter to a gentle boil on low heat. Simmer on low for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and add vanilla and almond butter.
- Mix into the dry ingredients and incorporate completely.
- Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan (or 8 x 8 inch pan if making half the recipe) with buttered parchment paper. Pour the mixture into the pan. If desired, sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Use buttered hands or an oiled spatula to press mixture firmly into pan.
- Bake in 300F oven for 30 minutes, checking at 25 minutes as some ovens bake more quickly than others. Allow the bars to cool in the pan completely before cutting them.
- When completely cool, remove the whole thing from pan by pulling the parchment paper at the ends.
- Place parchment and bars on a cutting board and cut into slices. The bars will keep for several weeks and for longer in the fridge (or freezer).
Yield: Makes one 9 x 13 pan. Recipe can be halved to make an 8 x 8 pan.
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.