Granola Bar Adventure!

I’m a freestyler. In general, I like to make my own rules, wander off the trail… But there is one place that this lust for spontaneity consistently gets me into trouble- the kitchen. It is because of this that I greatly prefer cooking to baking. At least with cooking, recipes have a bit more wiggle room for experimental efforts with less disastrous results. But baking is such a science, one missing ½ teaspoon of baking powder and the whole thing goes tits up. With cooking, you can continue to tweak ingredients and flavors until you get them right. But again with baking, a failed attempt can rarely be saved as anything other than paperweights or possibly a door stop depending on the size pan you are using. 

So you can imagine when Chris asked me to do a piece on making granola bars, I was a bit nervous. Cookies I have done, muffins even, but granola bars seemed complicated and mysterious. Also, I traditionally despise many of the ingredients that go into granola bars (my greatest foe being raisins), and I was nervous about even finding a recipe that had elements that appealed to me (or that was at least uncomplicated enough for me to feel comfortable tweaking). alone has 160 different recipes! But then I found it- EASY GRANOLA BARS on

How easy you ask? Well, 3 ingredients easy. Basically it’s just oats, butter, and sweetened condensed milk and whatever other stuff you want to put into it. I chose slivered almonds with dried cranberries & apricots because I like a granola bar that has a little tartness, but I just as easily could have thrown down crunched up pretzles and peanut butter chips, or cashews and dried pineapple with chili powder.

It occurred to me as I was combining my chosen ingredients that this would be a really good recipe to make with kids. Because really, deciding what you’re going to put in them is the toughest/most fun part. Other than that, you just mix everything up into a big bowl, press it into a greased up (this is important) sheet pan and then bake it (longer if you want crunchy, shorter if you want chewy).

No, the end product was absolutely nothing like a Quaker Chewy granola bar. They were a bit heavier, less sweet, and were a far more substantial foil for my hunger. They felt like actual food! I packed them in a Tupperware container, and they tasted fresh all the way through the end of the month. I actually unearthed a stale one today, and though much crunchier, still totally delicious. Now that I’ve broken the seal, I am still very curious to try out some other granola bar recipes (maybe something with honey?), but I will most definitely be coming back to this one again.

Value-wise I also feel like I did quite well. I bought my add-ins from the bulk bins at the grocery store (only exactly as much as I needed), and the cost of remaining ingredients was quite minimal (work those coupons!). I got 24 bars out of the deal, and still have enough oatmeal to make another batch and a half. The only question that remains is what to put in them!

Any recommendations?