If I had a nickel for every granola bar I’ve purchased in my life, I’d be quite angry. Largely because I simply don’t know what I would do with 7,893 nickels. Other than relegate all coins to my iced coffee spending account. You know, because change isn’t real money. And evidently, neither is a debit card, as seen on my Bank of America statement for July.
I remember when I got into energy bars. It was after I lost weight and was in the midst of figuring out what proper “snacks” were. I had my work cut out for me. Because in all my twenty years, snacks were a “Number 1″ at McDonald’s. Or, if I was in the mood for something light, a Reese’s McFlurry. Seemed reasonable.
A nutritionist I visited turned me on to Luna Bars. (Which reminds me that I should send her a bill for addiction treatment.) I loved the first crispy bite into Chocolate Peppermint Stick. And then S’Mores. And though I was skeptical of the chocolate recommendations, I wasn’t about to argue with someone who gave me the green light to munch on a dead ringer for Thin Mints mid-afternoon. Unclear as to whether she meant to say, “Just have a Lettuce Bag” when all I heard was “Luna Bar.” Was that ‘carrot sticks’ or ‘carrot and Twix?’ She also prescribed that I eat a cupcake a day, but that’s another story for another day.
For someone who loved and still loves candy bars as fiercely (if not more) than most members of her family, I immediately took a liking to energy bars. Not the most nutritious rectangles in the world, but they made eating healthfully fun and decadent. And curbed my appetite until dinner. Well, actually no. They never really filled me much at all, but they mentally satisfied me- a feeling like I could eat a candy bar and call it health food. Because whether or not they’re akin to Snickers and Milky Way, they’re still slightly better. Sugar-wise? No. But they at least have some nutritional value- vitamins and minerals added, likely a good dose of fiber from whole grains, and a touch of protein for some staying power. And the ingredient list most likely doesn’t share the same trans-fats as Baby Ruth. No offense, Ruth.
Nowadays I stick to the ones that have under five ingredients, all of which I know well. Nuts, dates, yadda, yadda, yadda. The likes of Lara. And I’ve stopped needing to feed my jonesing for candy bars with something moderately healthy. I don’t even care to put a nutritional halo on a Heath Bar. Just crumble it and toss that baby on a sundae. With whipped cream. Because when I’m craving a candy bar, that’s what I should have. And when I’m craving a granola bar because I’m in need of a more substantial snack than chocolate covered nougat, a granola bar it is.
And to save me from further marring of my credit report, I’ve learned to make my own.
Cranberry Coconut Granola Bars (loosely adapted from Ina Garten)
- 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup honey
- 3 TBSP light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
- 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13×9″ baking pan with foil and coat well with nonstick cooking spray.
Toss the oatmeal and walnuts on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.