Back when I first got out of college and was pining my days away in a cubicle farm, I always hit that stereotypical 3pm brick wall at full speed. To be honest, I still start to drag in the middle of the afternoon but the effects are somewhat lessened when you’re not stuck in a cube with the buzz of white noise clogging up your ears. My remedy for the 3pm crash back in those days was Diet Coke and a snack. For awhile I would wander to the vending machines (walking away from your desk always helped) and grab pretzels or crackers. Then, I started buying boxes of granola bars and keeping them at my desk. They immediately became my go-to snack food when I needed to tide over hunger at work. Truth be told, I haven’t eaten them much since then, partly because I try to stay away from prepackaged/processed foods. Last year I started experimenting with homemade granola bars; not only are they much tastier but there are limitless possibilities in terms of flavors! And they’re still good to have in the house when I hit that 3pm brick wall in my home office :)
I came across this formula for soft and chewy granola bars over at Good Life Eats a little while ago and couldn’t wait to start experimenting! There are five basic components: grains (oats), nuts/seeds, dried fruit, a sticky sweetener and a binder (complete details are below). You can mix and match all sorts of different ingredients and flavors, which is awesome.
These sort of became my “let’s clean out the baking pantry” granola bars. I used up the dates, figs and raisins that I had and they magically added up to just about 1 cup. I had almonds, so I used those, then did honey as my sticky sweetener and unsweetened applesauce (had just enough left!) as my binder. After I made them I realized that they were almost exactly like the Cucidati cookies that I’ve made. Those have a filling that consists of pureed figs, dates, raisins, walnuts, honey and orange marmalde. Guess what? Next time I’m subbing in walnuts for the almonds and orange marmalade for the applesauce. Cucidati granola bars! I can’t wait!
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the honey, applesauce, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Stir in the oats, making sure that it is evenly mixed and all of the oats are moistened. Mix in the almonds, figs, dates and raisins.
3. Turn the mixture out into the baking pan and press into the pan, making sure it is evenly distributed and tightly packed.
4. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the freezer until the bars are firm, at least 1 hour. Remove from the pan and cut into bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Recipe Note: I experimented with this recipe using both traditional rolled oats and quick oats. I tended to like the consistency of the bars with the quick oats, but I had my mom taste both and she liked the traditional rolled oats better. So I think it's a matter of taste/preference. Give them both a shot (or use what you have on hand) and see which you like better!