When I was pregnant with Kiddo, I had about three months of free time between the end of school (I was a Fifth Grade teacher) and his birth. Normally, I would work at a day camp during my summers off, but hubby and I agreed that being outdoors without air conditioning while very pregnant was not a good idea. So, I spent a relaxing summer spending time with family and friends, sewing his baby bedding (a quilt, crib skirt, and curtains), and trying out tons of new recipes. I can only imagine how many more things I would have tried had I discovered Pinterest!
It was during this time that I discovered I could make my own granola bars. Since they were something I bought regularly for our packed lunches anyway, I decided to give them a try.
I started out with the Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Recipe from Weelicious, but I've tweaked the recipe quite a bit to make it my own. I've added flax, reduced the sugar, added cinnamon, and replaced the chocolate chips with raisins.
First, you mix together the dry ingredients (ignore the vanilla extract that ended up sneaking in the picture).
When I add the coconut and flax seed, I never measure the exact amounts. I just pour them both to a cup measure until it's full. Since my supply of ground flax was almost empty, I only used about a quarter cup of flax in this batch. Whole flax seed is less expensive than flax meal, so I grind it up myself in a coffee grinder and keep it in a mason jar in the fridge. I would have ground more, but I didn't want the noise to wake Kiddo from his nap.
Kiddo loves to help me bake, so we usually measure the dry ingredients together. I'll scoop the ingredients and he'll dump them in the bowl. This is a great way to practice counting. When we add cinnamon, we never measure. Kiddo likes to shake it in until I tell him to stop. :) If I'm in a relaxed mood and don't mind cleaning up spills, I even let him stir the ingredients.
Once everything is mixed up, I usually put a lid on the bowl and finish making the bars when Kiddo is playing or napping. (Dry messes are easy to clean up, but sticky messes are NOT fun!)
Then we add our wet ingredients. If you've never tried coconut oil, it's really unique. It's a solid below 76 degrees and a liquid when warmer. I put the coconut oil in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and, if it's solid, put it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds at a time until it's melted. While the mixture is heating, I soak the raisins in hot tap water.
To mix it up, I often add about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Use as much or as little as you want, as long as the total oil-peanut butter mixture equals 1 cup.
Once the oil is melted, add in the honey and vanilla. I stir it well and pour it into the dry ingredients.
Mix it really well until it's thoroughly combined. If you want to mix in the raisins and/or chocolate chips, this is when you stir them in as well. Since Kiddo refused to eat granola bars once he decided he didn't like raisins, I compromise by sprinkling them on top. That way I can easily pick them off for him.
Then divide it into two parchment-lined 13x9" pans. I use a ladle to scoop it out evenly.
Because of my compromise with Kiddo, this is the point where I drain the raisins and sprinkle them on top.
Then it's time to press down the granola mixture. You can use a spoon or spatula, but the best method I've found is to cover the mixture with a sheet of waxed paper and press using the other pan.
I like how evenly this method distributes the granola. I think it helps the bars hold their shape, too. :)
Bake at 325 F for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Since I can only fit one pan on each rack in my oven, I switch them about half-way through. Allow to cool completely before cutting.
Once cool, transfer to a cutting board and cut each pan into 16 even pieces using a serrated bread knife. I've tried several types of knives, including my electric knife, but after lots of trial and error, I think the bread knife is the best. The key is not to use a sawing motion, but rather to press on the blade. The serrated edge will cut through the oats pretty easily.
Once they're all cut, I wrap them in fold-top sandwich bags and store them in a basket in my pantry. Since I make this recipe all the time, I keep a small container in the pantry to hold empty bags so I can re-use them. And, since I am incredibly thrifty, and I hate to waste anything, I also save the parchment and waxed paper with the baking pans for a few uses.
We've tried a few granola bar recipes over the last two years, but these are by far our favorite! I have been making a variation of these granola bars for over 2 years now. Hubby likes them so much that I have to put a limit on how many he can eat in a day. He says they're way better than store-bought. :)
Our Favorite Homemade Granola Bars
Makes 36 bars (two 13x9 pans)Ingredients:
- 8 cups old fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup ground flax seed (I buy whole flax seed and grind them in a coffee grinder)
- 2/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (I find this in the organic section)
- 1/4-1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ground cinnamon, to taste
- 1 cup coconut oil (or 2 tablespoons peanut butter, plus enough oil to make 1 cup)
- 1 cup honey
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup raisins sprinkle on top (or 3/4 cup chocolate chips and 3/4 cup raisins, if mixing in)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Melt the coconut oil (and optional peanut butter) in a glass measuring cup. Add the honey and vanilla and stir. Put raisins in a small dish (I use a measuring cup) and soak in warm tap water.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. (At this point you may choose to stir in raisins and/or chocolate chips)
- Line two 13x9" pans with parchment paper. Divide the granola mixture into the pans and top. Since I don't mix in the raisins, this is the point where I sprinkle the raisins on top.
- Press the granola down evenly. See above for my favorite technique.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely and then cut each pan into 16 bars.