Let’s Hear it for The Boy
My youngest son is a high school junior, which is the year every kid starts panicking about college. SAT prep, school projects, competitions, college counselors… this guy can’t miss a beat. It’s a critical year.
And since we live 30 miles from his school, he has a pretty tight schedule for homework, projects and meetings. So my job is to make sure he has the proper fuel to get through his grueling, activity packed days.
Sometimes he will hit the road early – so early that he isn’t hungry yet. School breakfast isn’t an option, and I do believe the Texas Department of Public Safety would frown on his gobbling down a bowl of cereal while behind the wheel. And you know me, obsessively anti-packaged food. I just can’t send him out the door with an energy bar from a cardboard box. Never. Ever.
Homemade Granola Bars are Easy to Make
Enter homemade granola bars. Peanut butter and pureed dates provide a sticky base that gives the bars a dense texture. These are not difficult to make, and can include your favorite ingredients. My son requested chocolate chips, but you could add coconut, dried fruit, or a variety of your favorite nuts. These granola bars are also dairy free, gluten free and can be vegan if you switch out the honey for maple or agave syrup.
The only drawback to this recipe is that it requires using both a food processor and a stand mixer. The thick dough is rather difficult to stir with a spoon, and hand kneading can be messy. The good news is that you can easily double the recipe, so you can make a heap of them that should last you awhile. A single batch lasts us about a week.
Give Them a Break
It’s not easy for teenagers who are transitioning to an adult life and adult workloads. I can see those worried forehead wrinkles, but you just can’t hug them 24 hours a day. That would be weird. But you can bake a little something for them to throw in their backpack for later, when they need a nutritious start or that little break in their busy day.
Honey Oat Granola Bars with Peanut Butter and Chocolate
- 1 cup pitted dates (either deglet nour or medjool varieties)
- 2/3 cup honey
- ½ cup natural peanut butter
- 1 cup unsalted almonds, chopped
- 3 cups rolled oats
- ½ cup chocolate chips or ½ cup dried fruit or coconut or ½ cup nuts
- 1 tsp vanilla or ground cinnamon (optional)
Heat your oven to 350°. Place the dates, honey and peanut butter in the bowl of a food processor, and process until you have a smooth paste, about 2 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the paste into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the almonds, oats, chocolate chips, fruit or nuts, and optional vanilla or cinnamon. Mix on low speed in the mixer until well combined, about 3 minutes.
Spray a 9”x 9” baking pan with vegetable spray (use a 9”x 13” pan if you opt for a double batch.) Scrape the dough into the baking pan. Using your hands, press the dough into the baking pan in an even layer (Spraying your hands with vegetable spray prevents the dough from clinging to your hands.) Place the baking pan in the heated oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bars are brown and firm.
Remove the pan from the oven. Cut into 9 equal squares, then allow to cool for about 5 minutes in the pan. Use a spatula to remove the bars from the pan, and then cool completely on a wire rack.
Makes 9 servings