Even though it’s well into February, the Ghost of Christmas Past is still hanging around and haunting the Kees. All around the kitchen I find little mementos: chocolate bars and truffle balls. Coconut, peppermint sticks and hot chocolate mix.
Actually the kitchen pantry isn’t just a repository of holiday souvenirs. It holds bags, containers and jars from long before that- crystallized ginger from last year’s cookies, Brigadeiro paste (a Central Market Passaporte Brasil 2013 find), yellow grits, white grits and some unknown grain identified by Whole Foods number 5887. Then there are the nut butters (which never seem to go bad): almond, nutella and 3 kinds of peanut – Trader Joe’s, freshly ground and Skippy for the squirrel trap. Plus loads of fresh nuts- slivered almonds, sliced almonds, cashews, peanuts, pecans, walnuts and pistachios (Excuse me, but you never know when you might need one of these immediately!).
Guess it’s time to clean things out.
I’ve been eyeing several homemade granola bar recipes recently. When I found one that clears out all those pantry leftovers AND makes a delicious sweet…well, that’s a tasty way to do a bit of spring cleaning.
For our bars, I emptied the pantry of anything remotely granola bar-friendly, sorted through them and ended up using chocolate truffles (chopped), unsweetened coconut, sliced almonds, slivered almonds, cashews, nutella and peanut butter.
- 1⅔ cups quick rolled oats
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup oat bran or oat flour (or ⅓ cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 to 3 cups dried fruits, chocolate chips, coconut and nuts (total of 10 to 15 ounces), any combination that sounds good
- ⅓ cup peanut butter, nutella or another nut butter (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- ¼ cup honey, maple syrup or corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8″ x 8″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to extend above the pan on both sides. Lightly coat the pan and parchment paper with a non-stick spray.
- Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry (and nut butter, if you’re using it) until the mixture is crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing firmly with a piece of plastic wrap to ensure it is molded to the shape of the pan.
- Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges and slightly brown on top. (Note: The bars in the middle of the pan may seem a bit undercooked, but should firm up when cooled.)
- Completely cool the bars in their pan on a cooling rack or they will fall apart when cut. Alternately, after about 20 minutes you can use your parchment “handles” to lift and remove the bars, and place them in their paper on the rack to finish cooling. Once cool, cut the bars into squares. Note: If the bars still begin to crumble when cut, chill them in the fridge about 30 minutes before cutting.