If you’re anything like me, 4 p.m. means a pretty big drop in energy levels at work. Lunch is over, dinner’s way too far away, and I need a little something to get my energy back up (yeah, my day pretty much revolves around mealtimes, what’s your point?). Since napping at work is generally frowned upon and I’m not a coffee drinker, I found that these little bars make the perfect afternoon snack (or breakfast on the inevitable days that I forget to pack anything).
These are very, very filling. One little square is enough to get me through an exercise class after work and (mostly) keep me from munching while I make dinner. They’re also incredibly easy to adapt to your own preferences; change the type of nut butter and nuts, or add some dried fruit and you’ll have your own customized granola bar that Whole Foods probably sells for $8. Also, if you have any edges or crumbly bits after cutting these into bars, dump them in a jar and add them to some fruit and yogurt for breakfast.
4 o’clock Granola Bars
Makes about 40 1.5″ bars; recipe modified from Car Snack #3 in The Homemade Pantry
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup coconut oil (or additional butter)
3/4 peanut or other nut butter butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon chocolate extract (or vanilla, if you can’t find chocolate)
2 1/2 cups rolled oats, not instant (I use a whole grain mix from Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup rolled oats, finely ground in a food processor
3/4 cup raw, shelled pistachios
3/4 cup whole pecans
1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dark chocolate would also be good)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch glass or metal baking pan with parchment paper.
Combine first seven ingredients (liquids and sweeteners) in a saucepan over medium heat until melted, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat. Meanwhile in a large bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients except the salt. Add the melted ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir well to combine.
Once the mixture is well coated and the chocolate chips are mostly melted, pour it into the baking dish. Spread it evenly with your hands (easier if you very lightly coat your hands with oil), then press it firmly into the pan. The more firmly you press now, the less likely your bars are to crumble later. Sprinkle salt over the top of the bars and bake for around 20 minutes until the edges are browned; the bars will still be soft at this point but will harden as they cool. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.
Once bars are cool, lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. With a very sharp knife, cut them into about 1.5″ squares (the 9×13 pan gives me about 8 cuts on the long side and 5 cuts on the short side) and store in an airtight container for a week or in the freezer for a few months. I wrap them individually before freezing, take one out when I leave in the morning, and it’s perfectly thawed by 3 p.m.