Story and photos by Brandon Matzek
With warm hits of cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and vanilla wafting about my kitchen, I was standing above my stove top, somewhat in disbelief, that the snack in progress was actually healthy.
Easy to prepare, homemade granola bars are a tasty treat that can be made with everyday pantry ingredients. Free from additives and preservatives, they're easily customizable to taste.
Here are some basics:
The base: oats, rye, spelt, barley, millet
The fat: canola oil, vegetable oil, butter, olive oil, coconut oil
The spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, clove, cardamom, 5 spice
The nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, hazelnuts
The fruit: currants, raisins, dried apricots, dried blueberries, dried cherries
The sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, light brown sugar, vanilla extract
Other mix-ins: coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter, salt, candy, pretzels
Sweet, salty, sticky and crunchy, these granola bars with coconut, currants and almonds are the perfect, light-and-satisfying snack after a gluttonous holiday season. If you aren't keen on any of the ingredients listed below, feel free to substitute in any of the many options listed above.
Granola bars with coconut, currants and almonds
1/4 cup canola oil, plus additional for the greasing pan
2 cups rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 cup almonds, lightly toasted
1/3 cup currants (or raisins)
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Toast the oats. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside. Lightly oil a 9-by-13" baking dish (rub oil all around), line with parchment paper, then lightly oil the parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine canola oil and rolled oats, tossing until all oats are coated and glistening. Spread out the oats on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring at 10 minutes. You'll know the oats are done when they darken a bit and become aromatic.
Flavor the oats. Return the toasted oats to the same bowl and add coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, almonds and currants, stirring to combine. Reduce oven to 300°F.
Warm the honey. In a large pot, add honey and vanilla, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into oat mixture until everything is well coated in the honey.
Bake and serve. Scrape the oat mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. I found the best way to do this was with my hands and a piece of parchment paper. Bake for about 25 minutes in the oven or until just golden. If the bars bake for too long, they will become too crunchy, so start checking for doneness around 20 minutes. Cut the granola into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container for about 1 week on the counter.