Monday, September 5, 2011

RoadTrippin' Granola Bars

We were gone...

...all last week-driving 2 small children in a packed up mini van across to California- through Utah, through Nevada, and onto the beach in Orange County. It's been a few years since I've made that drive and let me tell you- rain drops never fall in southern Nevada- true fact. And so, entering California and seeing ocean as far as the eye could see was like tasting ice cream for the first time: so good you never wanted it to end. Oh how I could inhale that salty oceany smell for the rest of my life and never tire of it. It was so wonderful. I loved watching my children squeal with perfect innocence while they strenously played and galloped on the shore.

And over all, road trips are fun. Err... revision. Road trips with youngens are a lot of fun work. Yes that it's it. It is FUN, but boy, it is a lot of WORK dragging these two cuties along with us though I wouldn't have it any other way. But today I can simply and fully appreciate and understand the highly- used cliche of , "we need a vacation from our last vacation". Perhaps you can imagine well the majority of our car being piled roof high with snacks and treats and goodies and electronics. And between all the i-pad playing, the smarties, the infinite amount of highly processed chicken nuggets from Mcadeez and Wendys, I think my children need some major detoxifying this week- a library and carrot/celery diet if you will.

These granola bars are perfect road trip food material- if you're kids will eat it- I think these were a bit too, what's the word.... chunky/nutty/fibery for my toddlers' to stomach. My man and I, on the other hand, la-la-la LOVED gnashing on these babies. The honey imparts such a subtle but not overbearing sweetness and the texture derived from a multiplicity of good things, like dates, craisins, nuts, coconut... is just hard to beat, and they are filling and healthy.

That Ina Garten. She sure knows how to make a good granola bar.

Homemade Granola Bars

{Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics}

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (Kate note: I used flaxseed instead)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup honey

1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup chopped pitted dates (Kate note: I used the Dole brand of pitted dates)

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch (I used a 9 x 13 sized and it worked fine!) baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, 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 a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries 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. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares (another test of patience!! Indeed- follow this instruction- they must cool!!!! So very hard to wait but worth the painstaking delay!). Serve at room temperature.

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