I love to cook and I love to eat good food.  Alas, the fact that I work 9-5 means that I can't do either as much as I would like, and like many I am often stuck at my desk during my lunch "hour".  My solution is to try to bring my lunch to work as much as I can.  This is my collection of recipes, all made quickly the night before (either as lunch or as dinner with leftovers that can be taken in).  Happy eating.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Granola bars

In the great British tradition, I often have elevenses to tide me over until lunch and tea in the afternoon to keep up my strength. To prevent a direct transfer of pounds from my wallet to my thighs, I try to resist running across the street for cakes, cookies, or chocolate. My answer is to keep an assortment of somewhat healthy snacks.

I love my granola and I love granola bars, but it was a question of how to get my cereal granola into bar form. I noodled around, so to speak, with this recipe for months until I hit on the right combination. As usual, it was much more simple than I had thought: take my basic granola recipe, and increase the honey and other binding agents. The addition of brown sugar and a little butter gives it a toffee like taste without too much guilt. A word of warning: wait until the baked bars cool in the pan before attempting to cut them apart. Otherwise, you'll see just how the granola bar crumbles.

2 C. whole rolled oats
1 1/2 C. nuts and seeds (I use 1/3 C. sunflower seeds, 1/3 C. pumpkin seeds 1/3 C. chopped walnuts, 1/4 C. slivered almonds, 1/4 C. linseeds)
1 C. dried fruit (I use chopped figs, chopped apricots, and cranberry halves. I have also used dried coconut to good effect)
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. honey
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

Mix oats, nuts and seeds in a 9x9 pan and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, mixing every 5 minutes so it cooks evenly.

Meanwhile, melt brown sugar, honey and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. When melted and combined, turn off heat and add vanilla and salt. Then stir oat mixture in thoroughly, then add dried fruit.

Rinse pan and butter it. Press oat mixture into pan, packing it tightly. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely in pan before cutting into 16 squares.

You can also make an extra few cups of the oat mixture from the granola recipe next time you make it, and stir it into the honey & sugar after baking. This is easy and good, but has a lower proportion of nuts and seeds.

Variations: for a lighter take, replace 1 cup of oats or nuts and seeds with puffed brown rice cereal.
Use dried apples and cranberries and add 1 tsp. of cinnamon to the oats.
Use dried pears and cherries and add 1 tsp. of ground ginger to the oats.
Dried mango and papaya, coconut, cashews and macadamia nuts?

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