Granola bars are a pantry essential around this household, but it sure does seem to me that the ones I buy at the market these days continue to shrink whilst the price tag steadily rises. At the very least, I would be grateful to feel just a tad bit satiated after consuming one of those tiny little store-bought bites. So then, in part out of frustration and partially out of curiosity, I decided to devise a few “homemade” versions of this ever-shrinking pantry staple. After all, granola and energy bars serve a highly utilitarian purpose in the snack realm because no utensils, napkins or prep work are needed when consuming them. I recently scoured a fair amount of food websites (keeping in mind that I – as well as virtually everyone I know – have a deep affection for peanut butter and regularly take joy in cramming a heaping spoonful into my mouth), and adapted a tasty-looking recipe for Peanut Butter-Granola Bars I discovered while perusing Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats.
Peanut Butter-Honey-Dark Chocolate Granola Bars
(Yield: about 14 bars)
- 3 cups granola (I love Ancient Grains Pumpkin Flax Granola or Nature’s Path Organics Coconut Chia Granola, both of which I find at Costco.)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans (I substitute macadamia nuts if I’m using Coconut Chia granola)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup honey (I like to mix a few tablespoons of lite-maple syrup and proportionately reduce the honey if I’m using Pumpkin Flax granola)
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup agave syrup
- 1/2 cup creamy reduced-fat peanut butter
- 1/2 cup currants, raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 13″x9″x2″ baking pan with cooking spray, then line it with a piece of parchment paper long enough to extend over the outside edge of the pan’s narrow sides.
In a large bowl, combine the granola, nuts, cinnamon and salt, and toss to blend the ingredients.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and honey (and syrup, if using), stirring well. Pour the melted ingredients over the granola mixture and stir to coat evenly. Transfer the mixture to a large baking/cookie sheet and spread it evenly in a thin layer to cover the entire sheet.
Slide the granola into the preheated oven to toast for about 15 minutes. PLEEEEZ make sure to stir the granola mixture well every 5 minutes or so, to prevent burning, then evenly re-spread it. (This stuff burns very easily, and I’m relatively certain that burnt granola bars are not nearly flavorful as those which are “unburnt”.) When the granola mixture is golden and toasted, remove it from the oven and transfer to a heat-safe glass or metal bowl to cool completely. Stir the cooling granola frequently to “de-clump” the pieces, as the mixture will begin to harden rather quickly.
When the granola is completely cool, add the raisins or dried fruit, if using. Warm a saucepan over medium heat, then add the brown sugar, agave syrup and peanut butter, stirring constantly. When it reaches a light boil, continue cooking for about 30 more seconds. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the granola and stir well to coat evenly. (The mixture will begin to thicken and harden, so speedy does it here!) Stir in the chocolate chips. Immediately transfer granola to the prepared baking pan, pressing it to cover evenly. Let the granola cool completely. (Because I’ve NEVER counted patience as one of my virtues, I prefer to refrigerate the bars for a bit so as to expedite the cooling process.)
Transfer the granola and underlying parchment paper to a cutting board, find a nice sharp knife, and cut into rectangular bars. Being the conscientious host that you undoubtedly are, you will more than likely want to immediately devour one of the bars to ensure that they are indeed extremely yummy before serving to others …