My latest “thing”: homemade granola bars

It’s sadly been so long since SOMEbody (anybody!) posted anything to this blog. 😦 I guess it must be because our lives were too full of good things/people/activities to have time to blog! 🙂 Maybe someday we’ll go back and post about Thanksgiving or Christmas 2013 (lots of fun memories)… or maybe we’ll just keep chugging forward.

Onto the more mundane things of life… like the latest “thing I’m into”  (BTW, we sisters seem to have a lot of these, so I was trying to find one good word for it, but couldn’t — obsession is too strong, interest too blah, infatuation/fascination too heart/head-y, fad and trend too fashion-related when it’s food — any suggestions?)

So, in the midst of all the “healthy new year” resolutions and ads out there, I was reading some article about minimizing our processed foods. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for years (and making slooooow progress, but some progress). In addition, the Web site was talking about how all those “healthy granola bars” are not that healthy, so today last week (it’s taking me a while to finish this post!) I got inspired to make some homemade granola bars.

I looked online and decided to try out both of these recipes:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/homemade-granola-bars-recipe/index.html
http://www.inspiredtaste.net/21462/soft-and-chewy-granola-bars-recipe/

I stocked up on some nice dried fruits (apricots, dates, raisins, cranberries, plus the dried mangoes and blueberries I already had at home) to let my kids customize their granola bars. What did they pick? Raisins and chocolate chips. :-/ And of course since I was planning to do a side-by-side comparison of the recipes, I had to make TWO batches with just raisins and chocolate chips. Sigh. Next time I’ll add some of the other yummy fruits. 🙂

granola1 2 pans

So here are the two finished batches side by side. To be fair to Ina, her recipe called for an 8×12 pan, but I tried it and it looked too big for the mixture. I had already used the 9×9 for the other recipe, so the only pan I had left was an 8×8.  In the 8×8, Ina’s bars were too dense and thick.  But I think it might also largely be because her recipe requires you to put them back in the oven once in the pan and bake for 25 min.  We did a taste test (and shared some with friends, after all, these are fresh for only a week and how many granola bars can one eat in a week? or so I thought…). They were BOTH good, but everyone had a preference for the inspiredtaste recipe (the one in front in this next picture).

granola1 finished

I thought it would take us a LONG time to eat 36 granola bars, and granted we did give away about 10, but we started running low this week, so I decided to try another couple of batches, and using only one recipe version this time. The first batch: almond, pumpkin seed, dates, dried blueberries, and mini chocolate chips.

granola2 before

The second: peanut butter, peanuts, and mini chocolate chips.

granola2 beforePB

I was wondering how it would work with “whole half peanuts” (can one say “whole half” or is that an oxymoron?), I thought it would look prettier 🙂 with whole halves, so I decided to go for it.  In retrospect, I think next time I’ll chop them up a bit more. They made the granola bars crumble a lot (see final picture below). Maybe I should’ve waited for them to come to room temperature, but I was anxious to try them out so I cut them right out of the fridge.

The finished products on this week’s homemade granola bar menu:granola2 finished2

Here’s how they cut, you can see the PB one is very crumbly. As I said, it’s in part because I didn’t chop up the peanuts, but it might also be because of the consistency of the bar due to the creamy PB. But it’s a case of “it tastes much better than it looks.” Both are really yummy, I like the consistency of the pumpkin seeds in the granola bar, and the dates/blueberries are way better than raisins (in my opinion, will have to ask the kids when they get home from school).granola2 pans

Look like this new obsession fad “thing” will give me lots of opportunities for delicious experimenting!!