Thursday, July 2, 2009

Homemade Granola Bars!

We had some thunder rumbling through this morning, so I thought some baking was in order... We had a huge tub of those Trader Joe's chocolate chip cookies that my mom bought us, and even though we have been eating them diligently (they are *awesome* crushed over ice cream), about 1/4 of the tub had managed to go mushy and stale in these last few humid days. I was trying to think of what I could do with the stale cookies. Crush them up... and make... something. I thought of maybe making some kind of pie crust, only I don't have any pudding or whipped cream or anything to fill the pie with. I contemplated mixing crushed cookies into a muffin or quickbread batter, which would probably be pretty tasty.

But, while I was taking my shower, the solution dawned on me. (The solutions to all of life's problems dawn on me while I am taking my shower.) Make granola bars! Of course!

I went onto (I don't own any cookbooks- the Internet is my cookbook. I figure if 4236 people give a good review to an online recipe, it's worth a shot) and surveyed the granola bar recipes. I used this recipe as a base but changed it a bit. Basically, this is what I did:

2 cups of oats
3/4 cups brown sugar (actually, I used 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/4 c brown- ran out of brown sugar- whoopsie.)
1 1/4 cup smashed stale cookies
1/3 cup smashed-up raw almonds
1/3 cup wheat flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla (ran out of this too... whoops again.)
2 tbsp peanut butter

I preheated the oven to 350 and sprayed the 9 x 13 pan. I mixed all the dry ingredients together, made a well in the middle and mixed it all together with my hands (very messy.) I spread it out in the pan and pressed it down evenly-- it didn't seem like it would fill the whole pan unless it was in a very thin layer. So I left about 3 inches of space at one end of the pan. It would probably be fine in a 9x9 square pan.

I wasn't sure how long to bake it- the original recipe said 30-35 minutes, but some people that commented on it said that was too long. So I baked it until the edges got brown, about 15 minutes. I let the bars cool and started to cut them. The ones in the middle really seemed too mushy, so I threw the whole thing back in the oven for another 10 minutes (I was making jam muffins by this point so the oven was on anyway.) This time, they seemed better and the kids and hubby came around to try a sample.

Oh. My. Goodness. These were probably more gooey and dessert-y than any granola bar has the right to be. For general snacking purposes, I could probably reduce the sugar in these quite a bit. But they were so, so good. I think I will also reduce the liquid ingredients in the future- maybe you don't need both vegetable oil *and* peanut butter.

One of the nice things about being frugal in the kitchen is that I'm always trying to come up with new ways to avoid letting food go to waste. So now I have a way to use up stale cookies or crackers in the future. I made the jam muffins because we have an extreme surplus of jam- I made a batch of blueberry jam last week, a batch of strawberry this week, and of course we had to open a jar of each after I canned them to see how they tasted! However, looking in my fridge I also saw

  • two (!) open jars of Polaner strawberry jam
  • two jars of pumpkin butter from Trader Joe's (from my mom, again)
  • a big jar of Trader Joe's cherry jam (thanks, mom)
  • a massive jar of apple butter that we may have purchased when we moved in, 4 years ago
So I pitched the apple butter, and used the rest for jam muffins. I divided the batter into 4, and added some whole wheat flour, and made cherry, strawberry, blueberry, and pumpkin butter muffins. I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to the pumpkin butter batter. I also added some topping- I like to take an instant oatmeal packet (something else we have in mass quantities) and mix it with about a tablespoon of buttery spread and microwave it for about ten seconds. It make a tasty streusel-like topping. These were also a big hit, especially the pumpkin butter muffins. I've had pumpkin butter sitting in my fridge for eons- I can't believe it never occurred to me to use it in baked goods! Sigh...

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