This is a reprint of my food column as it appeared in the April issue of Satellite Magazine
Note: I have modified this recipe slightly. In my recipe tweak, I call for a different honey-to-sugar ratio. I've also updated the quantities here
Have you been outside lately? Spring is in full swing--great blue bowl of a sky, wonderful weather, and everywhere flowers are in full bloom.
This is many people's favorite time of year in Gainesville, a time when North Florida really shines. It's finally dry enough and warm enough (through not too hot) to enjoy much of the natural beauty North Florida has to offer. From springs to beaches, from hiking trails to biking trails to spring-fed rivers, it's time to get out-of-doors and shrug off the last of your winter doldrums. But what to take with you? A full picnic lunch? It's a possibility. But for on-the-go body fuel, it's tough to beat delicious, carb-packed granola bars.
Hikers, bikers and general health-food types have long been proponents of granola. It's a solid energy snack, filled with protein and the necessary carbohydrates you need when climing that last stair set at Devil's Millhopper or biking those last few miles at San Felasco. However, "healthy granola bar" could be a misnomer. Often, they're packed with additives, preservatives, and the singular ingredient I wish could be wiped from earth: high fructose corn syrup. In addition, they're just plain expensive. But with a just a little time you can make granola bars that provide an excellent energy boost without a lot or preservatives. And while they're not low carb or particularly low sugar, they're very low cost.
- 1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oat meal (quick cooking is fine, but NOT instant)
- 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (for a rustic spin, you can use roasted, salted sun flower seeds still in their shells--I did it once, and it made for a delightful eating experience)
- 1 cup thinly sliced almonds (you can also use cashews, macadamia nuts or even pistachios--any high-oil nut or seed will do)
- 1/2 cup wheat germ (optional--but it does provide good nutrition)
- 1/4 cup flax seeds
- 1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup1/3 cup packed brown sugar (you can remove 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and add an additional tablespoon of honey--sometimes more--to create chewier, softer granola bars)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (You'll also need some to grease the pan)
- 1/2 cup mixed dried fruits (berries and raisins work best, but you could certainly use apricots, apples, or even banana chips. You'll just have to slice them into little bits)
Note: You'll also need a cookie sheet, a 9*9 glass baking dish, a gigantic bowl (preferably glass), and a sauce pan
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it's heating, grease the glass baking dish, and in your large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, sunflower seeds, and almonds. The wheat germ is optional here. If you toast it, it brings an almost cinnamony flavor to the granola bars. If you save it for later, its flavor doesn't come through and your bars will be fruitier. Once mixed, spread the ingredients out on the cookie sheet and bake them in the 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Every five minutes, use a spoon or other tool to stir the ingredients slightly to achieve even roasting.
While the dry ingredients are roasting, mix the butter, honey, and vanilla extract together in the sauce pan and bring the heat up to medium high. Cook the ingredients together until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Then lower the heat to simmer.
After the dry ingredients have finished roasting, lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Combine the dry and wet ingredients in the large bowl and stir them together. You'll probably want to use a silicone spatular or plastic spoon as they'll stick less. If you use a wooden spoon, however, you get to eat whatever becomes trapped there. Cook's prerogative!
When the ingredients are well mixed, scoop the mixture into the greased baking dish and pat them down so they are even. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. When it's done, allow the granola mix to cool completely before cutting it into squares.
That's it! When you're done, you'll have a delicious, preservative-free snack that travels well and will keep up to a week on the kitchen counter. Now you have no more excuses. Get outside, and know you now have the on-the-go fuel you need to enjoy all the outdoors North Florida has to offer.