I love Ina Garten. She’s the Julia to my Julie. See, Ina has no formal training…and, like me, spent time in Washington, DC cranking it out in a government job (not like me) as a budget analyst (definitely not like me). Ina cooked because she wanted a release from the daily grind. She learned to cook from her cookbooks and, I would assume, later discovered that she could do a little something with this passion. So after years of working in a 9-5 desk job (and apparently flipping houses!?) she opened her own store, Barefoot Contessa. Then came cookbooks…then shows…and well, we all know how she’s doing now.
So after a bad day or a long week, when I bake cookies or make homemade granola bars I think about Ina. I doubt Ina ever had to cook in a galley kitchen with about three square feet of counter space BUT! She battled the daily grind with cups of packed brown sugar and ounces of melted semi-sweet chocolates and she came out on top. It’s a nice reminder that I/you/we can come out on top, too.
On to the granola bars though. I swear, every time I make something there’s always ONE ingredient I can’t find. I’ve come to expect this so I’ve also become quite good at improvisation. This time around I couldn’t find a jar of wheat germ anywhere in this stupid city…so I used flax seeds instead. Also, dates sounded lovely, but they’re expensive…and this gal’s on a budget. I had prunes laying around and used those.
I think it will be fun to experiment with some other ingredients…mixing in some mini-chocolate kisses and mini-marshmallows…raisins…rice crispies…sunflower seeds…OH the possibilities are endless!! Enjoy!
Homemade Granola Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten
- 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
- 1/2 cup whole golden flax seed
- 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 prunes
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in flax seeds.
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 prunes, 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. Serve at room temperature.