Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Solutions for Trader Joe's Overindulgence

So this is what happens when I go to Trader Joe's: I get so excited by all the different nuts and dried fruits available, because they are SO CHEAP compared to the Stop 'n Shop on Nantucket, so I stock up on way too many bags of almonds, walnuts, pecans, cherries, apricots...the list goes on. I make a few recipes with them, and then the partially used bags get buried in my "partially used bags of fruits and nuts" container, which is on the top shelf of my pantry, and then I forget that I have them.... And then a few months (or a year) later I'm like, holy nuts, what the heck am I going to do with all this stuff?!!?

If you ever share this issue, then I have a solution. Homemade granola bars. They're perfect because you can use any fruit and nut remnants you may have, since you don't need a lot of any one ingredient.

In honor of the new year (and all those people who are committing to getting healthy), many Food Network chefs have been featuring healthy recipes on their shows. According to the Barefoot Contessa these granola bars are "so healthy" and full of things that are "so good for you." While I don't totally agree with these statements, (butter, sugar, honey?) it didn't stop me from making them because they are full of things that taste good, and they're not horrendously unhealthy, either.

Ina's recipe, found below, is pretty good, but I did make a few substitutions: I took out the cup of coconut and increased the oats by 3/4 of a cup and the almonds by 1/4 cup (and in doing so reduced the amount of saturated fat by a buttload, since coconut is loaded with the stuff). I also replaced the dried dates, which I don't care for, with dried Bing cherries, which I adore (and there were about 4 bags kicking around in the depths of my pantry). The nice thing about this kind of recipe is that as long as the quantities of dry goods follows the original recipe, it will work out. Other good add-ins could be dried blueberries, dried plums (always sounds better than prunes), raisins, dried strawberries, sunflower seeds, or anything else that tickles your palate. 

Homemade Granola Bars (adapted from Ina Garten)

* 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
* 1 cup sliced almonds
* 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
* 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (often found in the cereal aisle near the oatmeal)
* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

* 2/3 cup honey
* 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
* 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

* 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 1/2 cups of chopped dried fruit, such as cherries, dates, apricots, or cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 by 12-inch baking dish with parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray.
2. Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut (if using) together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.
3. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
4. Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and mix well.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Using your wet fingers or a silicone spatula, press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.


1 comment:

  1. I love these! They are delicious and you can at least pretend they are nutritious!

    If it become Tasty Macy, can we get new reaction options? Such as "Tasty" or "Yum" or "Easy peasy"?