Chewy Granola Bars

love Smitten Kitchen. I have been reading her for years and have made many of her recipes, all of which have been amazing. I’m especially charmed and inspired because she creates all of these lovely dishes in a postage stamp–sized NYC kitchen (and her previous kitchen didn’t even have a dishwasher *shudder*).

I had to stop reading for a while though. Because of the BREAD. Like the most recent post, for instance. I may be committed to a mostly gluten-free lifestyle right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t lose my marbles at the thought of a crusty ciabatta roll or whipping up a loaf of no-knead bread, which used to be a staple in my kitchen. For now, that’s not happening.

Thank goodness not all of Smitten Kitchen’s recipes involve bread. Last week, a friend on Facebook linked to this recipe and mentioned that the smell of the baking bars was intoxicating. That’s enough of an endorsement for me. I’ve been looking for a portable breakfast/snack option other than ordering boxes of Kind bars from Amazon (the cheapest avenue I’ve found). I like most of the Kind bars (although they’re a little on the sweet side for me), and I need a grab-and-go option to have in my purse at all times and for busy most nearly all weekday mornings, when I can’t manage to make myself a real breakfast on my way out the door. When my stomach wakes up sometime after 9:00 a.m., I’m always reaching for a Kind bar in my desk drawer.

I decided to whip up a batch of these granola bars on Friday night, with some tweaks. They are insanely good. I think it’s time to cancel that recurring order on Amazon. Seriously. They are chewy, dense (in a good way), and have a nice crunch if you leave nuts in larger pieces or whole. I plan to keep fussing with the recipe and to have these on hand at all times. If I prepare a batch every couple weeks and freeze individually wrapped bars, I should be covered. The options for add-ins are endless too. (Don’t worry, coworkers. I’ll be bringing a few to the office tomorrow for your feedback.) The biggest change I made is subbing the refined sugars. If you want to use regular sugar and corn syrup, you can get the amounts over at Smitten Kitchen’s website by clicking the link below.

Chewy GF Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 2/3 c quick-cooking rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats*)
  • 1/2 c Sucanat
  • 1/3 c oat flour (if gluten-free, be sure to use GF oat flour) (OR 1/3 cup oats, processed in a food processor or blender until finely ground)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 2–3 c dried fruits and nuts**
  • 1/3 c almond butter (or another nut butter)
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 6–8 T melted butter (or melted coconut oil, which I plan to try next time)
  • 1/4 c agave
  • 1/8–1/4 c honey
  • 1 T water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan {I used a small rectangular jelly roll pan} with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan {I rubbed the parchment with coconut oil}.
  2. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners, almond butter, and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly to ensure the bars are molded to the shape of the pan.
  3. Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges {I baked for the full 40 minutes}. Don’t be afraid to get a little color on the top as well. The bars will seem soft and almost underbaked when you press into the center of the pan; they’ll set once completely cool.
  4. Cool the bars completely in the pan on a cooling rack. This part is no joke. I got a little ahead of myself and tried to slide the parchment out onto the cooling rack after about 30 minutes. Too soon! Some of the center bars ended up a little cracked and crumbly. I ended up letting them cool on the counter overnight, in the pan, lightly draped with a tea towel.
  5. Once cool, slide the parchment with bars out onto a cutting board, and use a large knife to cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or waxed paper, or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. I’m hoping they also freeze well.

*Note that any links I’ve provided are for bulk amounts on Amazon. You likely aren’t looking to purchase twelve bags of Sucanat; I just want you to see what product I’m using. (Be aware that you will find many of these products to be much more cost effective if you purchase through Amazon or other online retailers. If you have the luxury of buying in bulk or splitting a bulk purchase with friends, I highly recommend it. And if you have Amazon Prime, the deal gets even sweeter.) Most of these are available at Whole Foods or any grocery store with a decent health food section.

**Suggestions for nut/seed/fruit mixture: dried cranberries, apricots, dates, pecans, chia seeds, flax meal, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, almonds, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried apples, or even chocolate chips. I didn’t measure carefully for this batch, and I don’t think it really matters. I just started pouring items into a liquid measuring cup until it hit 3 cups. My mix for this batch (amounts approximate): 1/2 c sunflower seeds, 3/4 c dried cranberries, 1/2 c pumpkin seeds, 3/4 c whole raw almonds, 2 T chia seeds, sprinkle of finely shredded unsweetened coconut on one half (I was afraid I wouldn’t like the coconut…but I did! Weird).

Confessions Part II . . . and Breakfast

My second confession is that I eat a lot, both in quantity and frequency.

When I was younger I used to be a little self-conscious about it, but somewhere between college and early adulthood I got over it. And now I seem to have quite the reputation. A couple years ago during a colleague’s going away party, he mentioned with a grin that he had to transfer departments because, “MacKenzie always ate all the food at the parties.” Early in our marriage, my husband would raise an eyebrow at dinner and say, “Are you seriously going to eat all of that?” Almost seven years later, he mostly just scrapes his leftovers onto my plate when he’s finished.

So anyway, for everyone else out there who has a large appetite and who is trying to make nutritious and gluten-free decisions, I thought I’d share a list of some breakfast ideas.

Some people actually suggest it’s better for your metabolism to eat many small meals throughout the day. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily eat small meals, but I do eat pretty often. I used to just eat a yogurt for breakfast at my desk in the mornings, but since I’ve tried to cut out most of my gluten and dairy intake, I sometimes eat at home and when I get to work.

Here are a few things I like:

• Scrambled eggs with goat cheese
• Fresh, homemade smoothies—these are not as time-consuming as you would think, and they are really filling
• Van’s Gluten-free Waffles—these are great with butter and agave or honey chevre
• An apple with almond butter
• A banana

Of this list, I usually need to pick at least two. We’ll be sure to share some of our smoothie recipes.

What are your favorite breakfast foods?