Are you singing the lunchbox blues yet? Have you run out of creative ideas for interesting bag lunches? Leaving them to the last minute and quickly throwing in whatever jumps out at you from fridge and pantry?
I confess I’m almost there. Today I made tuna sandwiches for the boys and I know that, in our household, those are only tolerated at the ho-hum level. Yesterday they got omelette and cheese sandwiches, which they loved, but somehow today I’ve crosssed the barrier into the land of ‘Help! I can’t think of what to put in the brown bag and we’re out of lunch meat and I didn’t do any baking!’
Then I remembered. I still had these granola bars in the freezer from a few weeks ago. Score!
I used to make these granola bars often when the kids were little, but kind of forgot about them for the last few years – you know how that goes? When I pulled the recipe out again, I decided it needed an update to ‘healthify’ it and some new ingredients to add interest. Though I must say, I do love the basic, vanilla-flavoured bars a whole lot and find it hard to decide which of the variations I like better.
I had been experimenting with all kinds of different flavours for an article I was writing, and anybody that entered our house was nabbed and roped in for taste-testing duty. It was a hard job (wipes brow) and required repeated tastings, but a couple winners edged out the rest. Our family voted a tie between the lemon-blueberry bars and the choco-peanut bars. The other flavours had their supporters too, though, so they are definitely worth a try.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: You can buy the golden flax seeds pre-ground or grind them yourself in a coffee grinder or high-powered blender. Once ground, they should be stored in the freezer. I love adding them to recipes whenever I can, for their rich omega-3 oils and good fiber content. If you can’t find the golden flax seeds, substitute in the regular brown seeds.
- 3 cups (300gms) large-flake (old-fashioned) rolled oats (gluten-free if necessary)
- 1 cup (130gms) sunflower seeds
- 1 cup (85gms) unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1 cup (110gms) chopped pecans
- ½ cup ( 50gms) ground golden flaxseeds
- 1 cup (140gms) golden raisins
- 1 can (300ml) sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup (110gms) coconut oil or butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grease a 10×15-inch (26x38cm) rimmed cookie sheet.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, sunflower seeds, coconut, pecans, ground flaxseeds, and raisins.
In a saucepan, over medium heat (or in glass bowl in a microwave) combine the sweetened condensed, coconut oil or butter and salt.
Heat just until the coconut oil or butter is melted. Stir in the vanilla and pour over the oat mixture.
Stir until everything is moistened and well combined.
Pour the granola ingredients into the prepared cookie sheet. Press down firmly with the back of a moistened large metal spoon. Re-wet the spoon as necessary to prevent it from sticking.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Let cool to lukewarm and cut the granola into squares or bars with a sharp knife.
Cool completely before removing bars from the pan.
Makes 24 -2½inch (6cm) squares.
Lemon Blueberry Grainy-ola Bars
Add the grated zest of one lemon to the dry ingredients. Substitute dried blueberries for the raisins. Substitute 1 teaspoon lemon extract for the vanilla.
Choco-Peanut Grainy-ola Bars
Add 2 tablespoons peanut butter to the hot mixture. Add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. Substitute chopped roasted peanuts for the pecans. Substitute semi-sweet chocolate chips for the raisins – stirring them in at the end, after the hot mixture has been well mixed into the dry ingredients.
Gingerbread Spice Grainy-ola Bars
Add 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon powdered ginger, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon cloves to the dry ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses to the hot mixture.
Cherry Almond Grainy-ola Bars
Substitute dried cherries (halved if large) for the raisins. Substitute slivered or chopped almonds for the pecans. Substitute 1 teaspoon pure almond extract for the vanilla.
Apricot/Orange/Walnut Grainy-ola Bars
Add the grated zest of 1 orange to the dry ingredients. Substitute chopped dried apricots for the raisins. Substitute chopped walnuts for the pecans.
Apple Cinnamon Grainy-ola Bars
Substitute chopped dried apples (firmly packed) for the raisins. Add 1 tablespoon cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon cloves to the dry ingredients.
Let your imagination loose to come up with your own fun variations for these delectable bars!
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