Ditch the Packaging: Homemade Granola Bars

DIY Homemade Granola Bars

Product packaging is one of the major sources of waste paper and plastics. According to EarthWorks Groups, it accounts for approximately one-third of all the garbage Americans send to landfills.  I recycle, buy what I need and resist the urge to give in to my occasional bout of the “I wants”.  It’s not that I am a “tree hugger” or even consider myself to be an environmentalist. Honestly, I’m more of a minimalist. Or perhaps I’m lazy — more stuff equals more dusting.

It wasn’t until my husband started working from our home office that I realized how much moola we funneled into single-use packaging like a box of granola bars. Each serving came in its own wrapper and then a larger container to keep them all together. While cookies aren’t individually wrapped, I rarely by them in the store because homemade clearly wins the taste test.

Homemade Granola BarsAnd that’s when I had the thought . . . “I can make that.”

While I regularly make my own granola, I have only tried to make the bars from scratch once with less than stellar results.  I don’t think I pressed them firmly into the pan for they just fell apart and, in the end, made for better granola — no bars.

This time around, I used a recipe I found years ago but never tried from the Mother Earth News website. Not only was it easy to follow, but my effort resulted in actual bars. The recipe also offers alternatives and ways to switch up the recipe.

For our version, I added peanut butter and cinnamon. Since I didn’t have sunflower seeds, I used pumpkin seeds. And the role of wheat germ was played by wheat bran — but that was due to a bit of confusion on the cook’s part. All in all, it turned out mighty fine.

Baking your own granola bars means they are a bit healthier without all the preservatives. They help the environment by saving on packaging. But there is one other hidden benefit — they are super-flexible. You want peanut butter ones? Simply add 1/2 cup of PB during the melting of the butter phase.  Don’t have almonds but have peanuts? Add them in. Don’t have enough sunflower seeds? Add what you have.  I call them the “clean out the cupboards” type of recipe — just toss in what you have. It’ll be perfect.


Sweet Fall Smell Of Homemade Granola

One of the reasons fall is such an amazing season is the sweet aromas that start to linger in homes from candles or baked goods. Fragrances add a special comforting touch to our living environments and are an inexpensive way to make a room, home smell special.  And I think the pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon and even cranberry aromas that are prevalent in fall or around Thanksgiving are the best by far.

I know. It’s not fall . . . yet.  I blame it on the weather. Yesterday, for the first time in over a month, I saw gray skies and heard the splatter of rain drops on our porch.  The temperature dipped and it felt like a fall afternoon.

To help capture and extend that fall-ish feeling, I whipped up a batch of homemade granola.  The crunchy mix is easy to make, lower in fat than their sweet supermarket counterparts and can be eaten as a cereal or used as a topping for yogurt, pancakes, muffins, ice cream, cottage cheese — you name it.

It can be made well ahead of time and given as gifts during the holidays or as a housewarming surprise for a neighbor.  Mike and I have discussed making it for our guests at our future bed and breakfast, or at least having take home bags of the mix for purchase.

Plus, during the baking process,  homemade granola will make your home smell like vanilla, honey, cinnamon and roasted goodness.

Below is a recipe that I found several years ago but have adapted for my own sweet pleasure. I actually up the cinnamon to about 1/2 teaspoon since it is one of my favorite flavors.  For the dried fruit, I have experimented with dried cherries, blueberries, cantaloupe, currents, banana chips and cranberries.  They were all tasty additions and it comes down to your personal preference.

2 cups rolled oats, uncooked
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (or 1/2 teaspoon depending on your taste)
Pinch of Salt
1/3 cup slivered almonds, chopped
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried fruit

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2) In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, almonds and pumpkin seeds. Most important, make sure the brown sugar is broken up and evenly distributed throughout the other dry ingredients.
3) In a pot on low heat, warm the honey and butter until the butter is just melted, stirring occasionally. When butter is melted, add the vanilla and stir.
4) Drizzle the honey-butter-vanilla mixture over the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
5) Spread the mixture on a baking sheet, keep it together but try and get it as flat as possible.
6) Bake granola until golden and crunchy — usually about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
7) Carefully move the granola to a large mixing bowl and stir in the dried fruit.
8) Let the granola cool completely.
9) Stir the granola to break up the chunk into small crunchy bits.
10) Store in a plastic container.

Makes about 3 cups.

For the original recipe, click here.