THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GRANOLA BARS

I knew the last Monday of this month would arrive at a particularly busy time, when we would be barely moved into our  new home, trying to adjust to the new environment.  I didn’t want to miss the party, so I had my  contribution  to “The Secret Recipe Club” taken care as soon as I got my  assignment.  This month I was matched with the blog  “Life and Kitchen”,  hosted by Lindsay, a super-busy young mom with a full-time job and a master’s thesis under way.  In other words, she struggles with a gazillion commitments, but still finds time to keep a great blog going!   Her writing is quite refreshing, I caught myself smiling all the way through reading many of her posts.  I finally settled on a recipe I’ve always wanted to make: granola bars.  They were a major hit in the Bewitching household, as I married a former-hippie.  Hope you try and like them too!   😉

GRANOLA BARS
(from Life and Kitchen, originally adapted from Ina Garten)

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 8 x 12 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Toss the oatmeal and almonds together and then toast them on a sheet pan by baking them for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When you take the toasted mixture out, reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the toasted wheat germ.  Then add in the honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt while it is still warm and mix it all together.   Add the raisins and dried cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and press the mixture evenly into the pan.   Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours at room temperature before cutting into squares.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  No matter how frantic your life might be, it’s good practice to read a recipe carefully before attacking the preparation.  It’s called common sense. Otherwise, you may set yourself up for trouble, like some people.

Indeed, I started by toasting 2 cups of rolled oats instead of oatmeal.  Once everything was nicely toasted, I realized my mistake, and did the only sensible thing to do: frantically ran around the house screaming at myself  “I am SUCH an idiot”;  “I am THE QUEEN of the idiots”!   Where’s George Costanza, my long lost brother?

Crucial decisions had to be made.  I had no time to start all over, and found only about one cup of oatmeal in our pantry.  I grabbed the baking sheet and scooped the mixture with one of those handy Chinese type tools, that kept the almonds and allowed the oats to fall back in the baking sheet.  By the way, oats that fly and fall on the kitchen floor will cool enough during their journey so they won’t pose a risk to your pets. Quite the opposite, they will be happy to do the cleaning for you.  

Once I got toasted rolled oats separated from toasted almonds, I saved 1 cup for the recipe, and mixed with 1 cup of oatmeal.  Proceeded without toasting the oatmeal, as the clock was ticking, and we had tickets to go see Prometheus at the IMAX. No way we could miss that.

As a result, the bars were a bit more crumbly than they should, as oats don’t bind as well as oatmeal, for obvious reasons.  But, you know what? The crumbled pieces made FANTASTIC granola!

I ended up with enough squares to last us for a while, nicely wrapped (just make sure to let them dry well for a full day before wrapping).

Lindsay, it was great to “meet” you through this month’s Secret Recipe adventure!

And a reminder for my readers:  if you click on the crazy looking frog at the bottom of this post, you’ll see the contributions of all other members of Group D for this reveal day.  Make sure to check them out!

ONE YEAR AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

TWO YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

THREE YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes



GOLDEN AGE GRANOLA

It’s been a while, but it’s my pleasure to re-introduce my favorite guest blogger, who made a few past appearances in the Bewitching (remember guacamole?).  My beloved husband, who at age 21 was almost as handsome as he is today, shares with you his recipe for the best granola ever!   It pains me to admit it comes from a former girlfriend, but chances are I bake a better bread, and play a much meaner  round of golf. So, there!  😉
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We spent part of our winter holiday in Sedona, AZ, where we enjoyed one of the local stores, the New Frontiers Natural Marketplace.  Still, I nearly choked on the price of some of their whole grain cereals: $13 or more for a pound of granola. It convinced me to get off my ass and make my own granola, so here’s my recipe from the golden age of peace and love: 1973.

We lived in a big Green House on Capitol Avenue in Lansing, MI, and this recipe became a staple of our diet.  It’s where me and Dave (together in the picture), Jimmy, Al and Joey spent a few years, chasing girls, cooking for each other, and listening to great music on Dave’s JBL speakers. I was 21 and dating Susie, who made the best granola anywhere, from Ann Arbor to Bloomington to Madison.

For us it was a golden age, of optimism, exploration, righteousness, liberation and natural foods.  When  you put together the ingredients for this recipe you’ll understand (and embrace) the meaning of  “grain brain.” Nothing’s better than this kind of natural food.   Once you make it and have a morning bowlful, you may never return to the preposterous prices of commercial granola.  The cost of this recipe has at least tripled in the nearly 4 decades I’ve made it, from about $10-12 to near $40 per batch, but it makes about 15 pounds, bringing the cost to a more realistic $2.50 per pound.   Cost aside, the granola’s flavor is unforgettably nutty and hearty, and the beauty of the recipe is its flexibility: you can change it in whatever way you want to customize the cereal.  Want a gluten-free version?  Then skip the wheat germ and use oat bran instead.  Don’t care for walnuts?  Use pecans instead.  Allergic to peanuts?  Substitute sunflower oil for the peanut oil.  I usually add raisins and chopped dates, which are excellent, to the baked granola, but in this batch I added dried cranberries and banana chips for a change of pace. Or leave out the banana chips and eat a bowl with fresh banana slices.  Mmmmm, that’s good!

Now, this is not a low-fat granola.  It’s a natural, whole-grain mix that gives you a mouthful of rich flavors in every bite.  To control the calories, just eat less (which you may find difficult!).

GOLDEN AGE GRANOLA
(from PEK)

Ingredients

1.  Mix the dry ingredients in a large (huge) pan or bowl:
3 pounds rolled oats
1 pound raw wheat germ
1 pound chopped walnuts
1 pound other chopped nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds or a mixture)
1 raw, chopped coconut (water drained and reserved)
1 pound sunflower seeds
1 pound pepitas
1 pound brown sugar

2.  Mix the wet ingredients in a large (½ gallon) container:

water from the coconut
2 cups hot water
1 cup peanut oil
1 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup maple syrup (or, use whichever of these sugars you prefer in the proportion you desire)
2 T vanilla

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Mix the dry ingredients very well in a large roasting pan or a huge bowl.  Whip the wet ingredients with a whisk or fork and pour half of it over the dry ingredients.  Mix well and then pour the remainder of the wet ingredients over the batch.  Mix very well with a large spoon, making certain that all the materials become uniformly moistened.  Spread the cereal on cookie sheets, about 3/4 in thick, and bake for 45 – 60 min, turning with a spatula every 15 min.  Let the granola cool, combine the baked batches and add some dried fruits: raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, blueberries or banana chips … your choice, about 1.5 pounds.  Store the cereal in a large, airtight tin or vac-pack it in 1-2# pound portions.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Some photos of the process (click on the pictures to enlarge)…

The ingredients…

Mixing the dry ingredients…

Draining and chopping the coconut…

Chopping the nuts…

Mixing dry and wet ingredients…

Baking, turning, and cooling…  the final stretch!

ONE YEAR AGO: Mushroom Souffle for Two

TWO YEARS AGO: Stollen

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