Photos and Words by Kristina Lauria
Any great snack should have three key qualities: simple, delicious, and satisfying. Granola is all of these and more, which explains why it has been the go-to nosh for both children and adults for decades. Boxes of brand name granola bars in a multitude of flavors line the shelves of every grocery store, making it easy to have them on hand day in and day out. But if you're like me and prefer to avoid unnecessary ingredients you can't pronounce, that doesn't mean you have to lead a life without the joys of the crunchy, nutty goodness. Even better: you can enjoy the homemade version.
Homemade granola has all the yummy and satisfying qualities of your favorite boxed brands minus the processed ingredients and extra sugar. When all the junk is removed, granola provides an excellent source of fiber, protein, and essential oils. Depending on the ingredients you choose to incorporate--which nuts and extra add-ins--it can provide necessary vitamins that might otherwise easily escape your daily diet. For college students, it provides the extra energy you need when you may or may not be getting the fruits and veggies Mom and Dad would normally give you at home.
The best way to go about making homemade granola is to check your pantry. Chances are you already have most of the ingredients on hand, like oats, nuts, honey, peanut butter, and dried fruit.
The best part about making your own granola? You have complete freedom to customize it to your taste and mood. Craving something sweeter? Add some chocolate chips. Rather have something salty? Try adding more nuts and peanut butter.
I've created an easy "mix-and-match" selection of the grains, the nuts, the "sticky-factor", and other add-ins you can combine to make the perfect go-to snack. But remember, if you can find it in your cabinets, you can probably add it to your granola, so don't let these lists hold you back.
Nuts & Seeds
With these lists, you can mix and match to the most delicious home made granola bars. A few key things to keep in mind before you begin: if you choose to use quinoa, you should stick to half rolled oats and half quinoa to maintain a good texture; you can incorporate as many different types of nuts as your little heart desires; as for the "sticky-factor", choose one or two main ingredients that give the flavor you're looking for, but make sure that you end up with a loose paste (almost the consistency of a cake batter) to ensure that it will hold all the goodies together through the baking process; and finally, when it comes to the extras, go a little crazy because these bars should warm your heart and make you smile when you're pulling them out of the oven. And hey, since you're avoiding all those processed ingredients in the store-bought brands, you deserve a little extra reward so go ahead and add those chocolate chips.
Here's my favorite combo so far:
- 2 ½ cups rolled oats
- ½ cup sliver almonds
- ¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup honey
- 3 Tbsp. coconut oil (or butter)
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium skillet melt the coconut oil over medium heat and add the oats. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats start to turn golden brown. Transfer the oats to a mixing bowl. Add the almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, cinnamon, and salt.
- In a small saucepan combine honey and peanut butter and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Pour the syrup over the oats and using a spatula make sure that all the ingredients are evenly coated. Be careful not to break up the oats so your bars have a hearty texture!
- Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.
- Let granola bars cool completely before slicing; slice into 12 portions and serve.