With fall in full swing, packing the lunchbox (or office lunch bag) can be a tricky proposition. Snacks can't be too sweet or too salty and often have to be nut-free--a list that can leave you in early-morning tears. After several unsuccessful trips down the grocery store aisles, I was determined to make my own granola bars. If I controlled the sugar, I figured, I could make something healthy yet portable that my daughter could eat at school--and I could eat on the run. Using oatmeal, coconut, sugar, nuts, and a little butter, these tasty 'Nelope Bars were born (using a nickname for my daughter, Penelope). I make them with nuts for non-school days but they are just as tasty when they're nut-free (sunflower and pumpkin seeds aren't nuts, so you're safe either way). You can substitute your favorite dried fruit and add your favorite nuts; the recipe is very forgiving. You could add flax seeds if you need an even healthier version, or chocolate chips if you're having a chocolate craving. They're portable and tasty and will keep for a week in a sealed container--assuming they're not devoured in a single day.
- 2 cups old-fashioned (not instant) oatmeal
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1/2 cup dried cherries (chopped if large)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish or spray it with non-stick cooking spray.
- Stir the oatmeal, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
- Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for one minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the apricots and cherries and stir well.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. While the granola is warm use a spatula to pat it down and even it out. Cool for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares or bars. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 14 bars