Soft Granola Bars
I'm not a huge fan of granola bars. And that's the worst way to start a post about granola bars. But it's the truth. It's not that I won't eat a granola bar - pssshh, don't be silly - it's just that I'd never pick a granola bar over a cookie. Or a cupcake. Or a brownie. But that didn't stop me from trying to create the best granola bar recipe I could for you guys. And tasting very many versions to find the best one.
I usually go for soft and chewy over crispy and crunchy anything. In fact, that might be my life motto: "Soft and chewy over crispy and crunchy anything. Always." I tell you this because granola bars can fall at either of the two (very) ends of the soft to crispy spectrum.
You can easily procure some super chewy granola bars at the grocery store or even make your own. So chewy, in fact, that you can bend those bars into a perfect semi-circle arch without breaking them. But these granola bars usually have some type of nut butter in them or lots and lots of liquid sweeteners added to allow them to be that texture.
And then there's super crunchy and dry granola bars that barely have any liquids in them. There's only just enough oil and honey/maple syrup in these bars to hold the oats and nuts and main ingredient, chocolate chips, together. (What, you didn't know chocolate chips were the main ingredient in a granola bar??)
Now, if it weren't for the fact that you need almond butter and 2 jars of honey to create those super chewy granola bars, I'd be the biggest supporter of them. And that's the type of granola bar you would see here. And they'd be titled "super chewy granola bars." Obviously. But I wanted a recipe without any nut butter. Not that I don't love nut butter. It's just that nut butters usually give whatever recipe they are part of a very distinct nut butter taste. Granola bars with peanut butter in them automatically become "peanut butter granola bars."
So I found a happy medium. I wouldn't call these granola bars chewy, but I'd definitely call them soft. These here are soft and flavorful and nutrient-dense and just slightly crunchy granola bars. Without loads of honey or peanut butter. Game over.
So, now that I've fully expounded on the texture of these granola bars (soft and just slightly crunchy), let's move on.
If you'll notice, I didn't put any sort of dried fruit in my granola bars. No raisins, dried cranberries, chopped prunes or apricots - nothing. I'm not overly enthusiastic about fruit in my baked goods. Unless it's apple pie. Or apple crumble. Or any fruit pie or tart or crumble. Or blueberry muffins. But in cookies and bars such as these - no. Oatmeal raisin cookies - no. Just no. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies - yes!! Always.
But, what's awesome about this granola bar recipe is that you can customize it any way you'd like. If you prefer raisins to chocolate chips, by all means, put the raisins in instead (who are you??? I thought only my mom and other such grown-ups would do such a thing). Or, if you prefer pecans or walnuts or peanuts or sunflower seeds to almonds, make the exchange.
Really, use any nuts you'd like and any dried fruit you'd like, but just keep them proportionate to the other ingredients. Try to limit your add-ins to 1 1/4 cups total, or you'll end up with bars that are too crumbly and won't stick together. I speak from experience. Trust me, I tried these granola bars first with just a tiny bit more (okay, a lot more) than 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips.
You can also use any type of oil you'd like in this granola bar recipe, and add in some chia seeds and flax seeds as well for extra awesomeness (and nutrients).
Grab a bar (or 4) for breakfast, munch on one as a snack, dunk a bar in some milk, or crumble one up and sprinkle it on top of your yogurt. So many options, so much deliciousness.
These quick, easy, soft granola bars can easily become your new household staple.
soft granola bars
Yield: 9x13 pan/about 18 bars
2/3 cup oil (canola, vegetable, melted coconut)
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup (or more honey)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 cups quick or rolled oats (do 4 cups if you want it chewier)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts of choice (I used almonds) or dried fruit of choice
Optional: 1 tablespoon each of chia seeds and flaxseeds
Optional: Melted chocolate, for drizzling
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line or grease a 9x13 inch pan.
Whisk together oil, honey, maple syrup, and vanilla extract.
Stir together flour, baking soda, oats, salt, cinnamon, and chia + flax seeds if using. Add into wet ingredients.
Stir in chocolate chips and nuts/dried fruit.
Pour mixture into pan, pressing it down with spatula/hands to compact it well.
Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely before slicing.
Optional: Drizzle melted chocolate over bars.
On a completely unrelated note, I'm pretty easy to please: