I am an efficiency freak. If I can save time or combine a trip, even if it’s just around the corner four feet to the bathroom, I’ll load up and figure out how to take the fewest number of steps.
I especially have a dislike of dishes, and I’ll try to pull a “two-fer” whenever possible. Making homemade granola bars and granola is one of those golden opportunities.
NOTE: Since this post, I’ve created soaked versions of both the granola and the granola bars (and they’re better than the original). Find the soaked granola exclusively in Healthy Snacks to Go, but the soaked granola bars are a FREE printable download, right HERE. This post contains recipes and tutorials for both granola AND granola bars. If you’re looking for the printable version of just the granola bar, you’ll find it HERE, along with some fun updates.
Timesaver: If you’re making granola AND granola bars, get all ingredients out for both recipes at once. There are enough crossovers that this definitely saves steps. You can also just use the same mixing bowl and many of the same measuring utensils if you make the granola first.
- 3 c. oats
- ½ c. sunflower seeds
- ½ c. nuts
- ½ c. coconut*
- ¼ c. oil (melted coconut oil or butter works great)
- ¼ c. honey
- ⅙ c. water
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Photo Tutorial: Mom’s Homemade Granola
This really is my mom’s recipe. I have fond memories of taking it for a snack at school. You can “drink” the granola from the bowl and then have a cup of milk next to it. I swear, it’s almost better that way than the traditional milk-on-top in a bowl method!
There are about a million different granola recipes on the Internet. I will be trying some other ones, someday, when I’m in an adventurous mood. For now this is my favorite, not only because of the nostalgia and habit, but because it really tastes good, with a light, slightly coconutty flavor, and there are ONLY EIGHT ingredients. Some of the other recipes I’ve found take up a whole page. That overwhelms me!
How to Make Granola: The Art of Granola Baking
I make a double batch almost every time I do this. It works well but can take a long time to brown, so try baking potatoes for dinner at the same time (you can stir every 7 minutes with a double batch in a 9×13 pan).
Granola ready to go into the oven.
You’ll learn the finesse of turning the granola without getting it all over out of the pan. Stir from the outside in:
Down and then up in the center:
The homemade granola is about halfway done here, my third stirring after 10 minutes, 7 minutes and 7 minutes. You want to make it evenly spread out when it goes back into the oven.
If you use cookie sheet(s), watch it very closely. Better to err on the side of not brown enough than too brown, which happens quickly at the end! I’m loving my baking stone recently for soaked granola (recipe in the Healthy Snacks to Go eBook.)
The finished product, above. This is as toasty brown as you would want to go. The granola browns first on the edges and bottom, which is why stirring is so important.
Cost for Granola:$1 to $1.25
Super Foods: 3, 4 if you use walnuts
Nutrition note: Click here to read why oats are so healthy for you, then keep reading for a great lunchbox or after school snack.
Traditional Foods? Wish you knew what I’m talking about when I say “soaked”? Check out this soaking grains research OR for a multimedia basics approach, see the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse to learn how to cook real, traditional foods at your leisure.
Recipe: Katie’s Healthy Granola Bar Recipe
While the homemade granola is baking, you should be in the kitchen anyway since you have to stir every 5-7 minutes. I use this time to whip up this chewy granola bar recipe, which can wait in the bowl while I clean up and wait for the granola to be finished and cool enough to store. I often make dinner while this is all happening, too (did I mention I’m an efficiency freak?).
My family has fallen in love with these granola bars, and they are the most popular recipe at Kitchen Stewardship. I can’t keep them on hand fast enough. You can store them right in the 9×13 pan, covered, or cut into bars and store in any tightly sealed container. If you were going to keep them around more than a week, I would recommend freezing them right away to preserve the best flavor. Around here, we haven’t had to do that yet!
NOTE: You can find a printable version of this healthy granola bar recipe HERE, along with some fun updates.
- 4 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, or spelt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup butter, softened*
- 1 cup honey
Add-ins: 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 cup chopped walnuts, or try any combination of 2 cups or less of dried fruits, sunflower seeds, coconut, nuts… (see more transformation ideas in the brown box below).
*If you have hard butter, you can roll it under wax paper with a rolling pin.
Lightly butter a 9×13-inch pan. In a large mixing bowl combine butter and honey first:
Then add all ingredients except add-ins. Beat hard until combined. Stir in add-ins. Press mixture into pan — really jam it in there so your bars don’t fall apart. (You can use your hands!) Bake at 325 degrees for 18-25 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing and serving.
Just right after baking, but much too soft to cut right now.
- Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder and skip the chocolate chips
- Use 1/2 cup natural peanut butter in place of 1/2 cup of butter (tried this today – it is divine!)
- The honey flavor is very distinct in this recipe, but when using peanut butter, it almost disappears. I’m wondering if PB is sweet enough that I can cut out some honey…
- UPDATE: I have a “soaked” version for easier digestion, which is also gluten-free and no-bake, plus more updates in my “Healthy Snacks to Go” eBook!
- Want crunchy bars? Spread a full batch into a large cookie sheet or a half batch in a 9×13 pan. Press firmly and bake as usual. Cool completely and cut apart, then spread individually on a baking sheet or stone and toast again for ~10-13 minutes in a preheated 325F oven. Watch carefully for browning on the edges. Now, listen closely – do not touch. Got that? Wait until the bars are totally and completely cooled on the pan before removing, and you will have sturdy, crunchy granola bars to die for.
- Bars too crumbly? Follow the directions for a brief re-toast in the bullet point above and you’ll be thrilled with the results – just slightly crunchy on the edges and with triple the stick-together-ness of the original.
- Crumbs in the bottom of the storage bag? So yummy over homemade yogurt with fresh fruit!
- What else can you do with these? Do share!
I get at least 20 good-sized bars from this recipe. I figure it might be the equivalent of 3 boxes of Quaker chewy granola bars, so even though butter and honey are on the pricey side, this still works out to be nicely frugal.
Cost for Bars: $2.50-3.00
Super Foods: 2 plus an honorable mention, up to 4 super foods if you use walnuts and sunflower seeds.
Lunch-packing Tip: Have the kiddos (or whomever) bring home the plastic baggie each day and just toss a new bar in. Easy way to save packaging and remember to take a bar every day! Check out all my healthy lunch packing tips and green lunch ideas, too!
UPDATE: I just discovered a bar that had been lost in the diaper bag for months. It was still delicious!
Added Bonus: You also only have to turn the oven on once and can use the same 9×13 glass baking dish for both recipes, saving energy/$ and yet another dirty dish!
Making Your Steps in the Kitchen Count
This combination is another one that I would call a quintessential Kitchen Stewardship habit (along with chicken stock, homemade yogurt, natural green cleaners, and using dried beans). Both recipes are such a healthy upgrade and so frugal compared to storebought items, we use them frequently, and the timesaving options are many when combining both recipes in one baking day!
Compared to breakfast cereal’s sugar and puffed grains, granola packs in the protein (nuts) and has natural sweetener (honey). For the bars, you know there’s no trans fats or high fructose corn syrup, and again the sweetener is one that doesn’t affect the blood sugar as badly as white sugar.
Granola in the store is quite expensive, so for the health savings in particular, you’re getting a great deal. The granola bars are hands down less expensive by at least half than storebought granola bars, even the least expensive brands.
This is a great option to accept this Monday’s Mission: Try a new oat recipe! Try two!
Love bars? Here’s one that’s even low carb and much lower sweetener than the granola bars: Almond Power Bars
If you missed the last Monday Mission, click here.
Other Posts You May Enjoy:
- California Chicken Wraps
- Does Your School Use Antibacterial Soap and Sanitizer?
- Plastic Bag Debacle – We Use Too Many!
- Can You Saute with EVOO?