December 19

Granola Bars, two ways

This past year, I got pretty involved with the website, reddit. I’ve submitted various things – usually involving Apollo – and I’ve done a considerable amount of commenting, and even more lurking. Something that I thought was really cool about the reddit community is the plethora of “exchanges” they do throughout the year. Trick or Treating, pet-related, board games, kitchen-related, pints/shot glasses-related, holiday cards, and even a secret santa. The secret santa was what got me most excited, mostly because it was the first exchange to happen when I learned of their existence. I signed up and impatiently waited to be matched up to people. I also saw they were doing the holiday card exchange, and I gladly signed up for that.

Now what’s so special about all that? Well, one thing I swore up and down about was not buying Christmas presents for anyone this year. Money is too tight and I was having a hard time justifying spending money on all the people I love. I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by people that not only understand why I’m not blowing money on them, but don’t expect anything from me. Which makes this decision so much easier. However, with the secret santa, obviously you have to spend some kind of money. Even if it’s just for shipping. I believe there’s a $20 minimum, but depending on what you’re doing for your recipient, that amount is flexible. I feel my time making stuff for others is worth more than $20. When I was matched with my recipient, I got to reading his profile and wasn’t entirely sure what I should get/do for him. He mentioned having a cat. He likes mountain biking and is into astronomy. Didn’t put much else down for his likes/dislikes. I had a little to work with, but not a whole lot. I hemmed and hawed for quite a few days with zero inspiration coming my way.

Then it hit me. I was going to bake for him and knit his cat toys. Considering he seems to be pretty outdoorsy, I decided trail mix related foods would be best. Granola bars, trail mix cookies, and then a couple goodies from my work. So many recipes I looked up for homemade granola bars called for a thousand and one ingredients, not including the nuts, fruit, etc. I wanted a recipe that had a base of things I already owned. Oats, honey, spices. I did have to go out and buy my nuts and dried fruit, which was fine, because buying in bulk meant spending less than $5 on it all. Piecing together the flavor elements of the bars was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that part immensely. Getting the bars to actually stick together and not dry out to the point of crumbling upon cutting? Not as much fun. It was quite the chore, honestly. But I think I got it to the perfect consistency – after much tinkering – and I’m proud to say these were better than anything I’ve gotten in the store. And not because they lack preservatives and chemicals and whatever. The flavors were divine. Even The Fellow™, who’s not a huge fan of macadamia nuts and super sweet dried fruits, liked them. I actually had a difficult time keeping him away from the containers I was storing them in.

animals

knitted cat toys for Smokey

So back to my secret santa… I also found this neat astronomy themed journal on Etsy that I would have loved to receive as a gift myself. I hesitated a moment before buying it, thinking he might think it was too girly or just not useful, but I bit the bullet and went with it, since one of the other things he really liked was pocket knives and buying a pocket knife for someone you’ve never met is super tricky. And expensive. After all was said and done and the package got to him, he seemed to really like the treats, his cat loved the toys, and I feel like he was on the fence about how he felt regarding the journal. Which made me sad at first. Then I realized you can’t win ’em all and since he didn’t go into great depth on things he wanted, I had to make the best of an eh situation. Part of the secret santa is posting photos of your gifts and essentially thanking your santa in public. When he posted his, someone responded saying how she loved how well thought out and pieced together the gift seemed. She said she was a knitter and knew what kind of time can go into things like tiny cat toys. That made me feel infinitely better.

Now I wait (im)patiently for my gift to arrive, which will probably be tomorrow. I have no idea what to expect.

Back to the granola bars:

I would definitely recommend not skimping on the honey or corn syrup, just because it’s the right amount of sticky goop (that’s the technical term) to keep it all stuck together when it’s being cut. While it might need to endure some time in the refrigerator to harden ever so slightly after baking (see note at the bottom of the recipe), having all the sticky goop will be a blessing. You don’t want to try to cut up bars that don’t have enough sticky goop. If you do find you used the exact measurements in the recipe and they’re just not working for you, be sure to leave me a comment. As far as “fixing” super crumbly, already baked bars, remove them from the parchment, break them up into small chunks and add a little more honey and/or a little more corn syrup. Already baked granola still mixes nicely with fresh sticky goop and still presses out without issue.

 

 

Granola Bars

Hawaiian Bars

Granola Bars, two ways

Ingredients

Hawaiian Bars

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup almond flour/meal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried papaya, diced
1/2 cup dried pineapple, diced
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, crushed
1/4 cup honey
2-3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons water

Mango-Raisin Bars

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
1/2 cup almond flakes
1/2 cup dried mango, diced
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries, diced
1/4 cup honey
2-3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons water

Directions

for both bars

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 9″x13″ cake pan with parchment paper, and grease the bottom and sides of the parchment (do not use tin foil).

2. In a medium bowl, combine oats, sugar, salt, spices, nuts, and dried fruit. In a separate small bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients.

3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. If you find the mixture is a bit crumbly, add a small dollop of honey.

4. Lay out combined mixture in greased baking pan, spreading evenly with a spatula or large spoon. Using a piece of parchment or wax paper (hands are fine too if you don’t mind getting sticky!), press the mixture down firmly, making sure it remains as even as possible and as pressed in as possible. Failure to press can result in a crumbly bar.

5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are brown. A little color on the top is okay, too. The bars can be cooled in the baking pan, on a cooling rack, or removed gently via the parchment and placed upon a cooling rack for faster results. Once cool, cut into desired sizes. Store in air tight containers. Can be refrigerated or frozen.

If you’re having issues with the bars crumbling as you cut them apart, place them in the refrigerator for 20-40 minutes and cut cold.

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