Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Homemade Granola Bars

I love granola bars, but I hate that when you read the ingredients list on the package, there are about 12 different kinds of corn syrup, not to mention all of those preservatives. So, I've embarked on an adventure of making my own. I can sneak in all kinds of healthy grains, like wheat germ and flax, which gives additional fiber and adds omega-3, omega-6, folic acid, vitamin E and zinc. And with the addition of dried blueberries, you get all of those great anti-oxidants. I borrowed from a few different recipes, tweaked and adapted them to suit my family's tastes--hope you like them!

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup flax meal
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey**
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup dried "cherries and berries mix" (dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries and strawberries)
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 12-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of parchment on 2 sides.

Toss together oatmeal, pecans, wheat germ and flax meal on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Reduce oven temp. to 300 degrees.

While the oats mixture is toasting, combine butter, honey, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir constantly for one minute, then pour over toasted oatmeal mixture. Add dried fruit to bowl and stir until combined. Allow to cool for 1-2 minutes, then dump in chocolate chips and quickly toss. (Do not over stir or chocolate chips will completely melt and incorporate.)

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Wet your fingers and press mixture into the pan evenly. Bake 25 minutes, until light golden brown. Allow to cool in pan for 30 minutes, then grasp parchment paper and pull granola out of pan, quickly placing on a flat surface to finish cooling. Let cool completely, 2-3 hours, before cutting into squares. Makes 12-16 bars.

**TIP: When measuring honey, syrup or other sticky liquids, spray the inside of your measuring cup with cooking spray first--the honey will slide right out!

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