I recently started working at Longman & Eagle, a Michelin-starred restaurant and whiskey bar in Logan Square. It’s awesome: with every shift I get to select a free drink from the outstanding cocktail or beer menu and when it slows down at the end of the night, sometimes the kitchen makes everyone nachos. I also get mad discounts on the amazing food and the staff is really friendly.
Of course, I’m on my feet for up to 10 hours without a break so that means I’m going to need a good supply of pocket snacks to get me through the shift. I’m not about to sacrifice my healthy eating habits: I will have to pack snacks to keep my energy level and blood sugar sustained. It’s time I learn how to make granola bars.
My first attempt requires no baking and relies on honey, peanut butter and prunes for the binding agent. Oats and nuts fill out the bars, and you’re invited to throw whatever else you want in the mix so long as you adjust the binding agents so the bars stick together.
The Learning Curve
- Toasting is optional. You don’t need to toast the oats and the nuts but I find it improves texture and flavor.
- Always used rolled oats. Quick oats are steamed and cut, making them mushy in granola applications.
- Moisten the prunes. The prunes dates, or figs act like a binder. If they’re too dry, soak them in water (or sherry if you’d like) for about 10 minutes before processing.
- Keep them cold. The problem with no bake granola bars is that once they temper, they don’t stick together and begin to fall apart into crumbles. It’s still delicious, but I don’t think this is the best way to go about making granola bars. If you want a quick crunchy snack, these are delicious, but they may be a little messy for a shift-long pocket snack.
- Keep proportion. Mess around with the add ins and flavors with these, but be sure to increase the binders when you add extra ingredients.
Adapted from Minimalist Baker.
- 1 cup toasted rolled oats
- 1/2 cup oat flakes (or another 1/2 cup oats)
- 1 cup prunes, figs or dates
- 1 cup toasted nuts (i used cashews and sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used candied ginger, cranberries and coconut)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowl + spoon
- 8 x 8 baking dish lined with parchment.
Preheat oven to 315° F. Spread the oats and the nuts on two separate baking sheets. Toast for 10-12 minutes, until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Let cool and add to the mixing bowl.
Add prunes to the blender and process. Scrape into the mixing bowl.
Add the oat flakes and dried fruit to the bowl.
Heat the honey and peanut butter in a saucepan over medium low. Whisk together and pour over the oat mixture. Stir to coat and transfer to the baking dish. Press down until evenly distributed. Freeze for 15 – 20 minutes.