i'll say it, i'm not afraid - i have a pretty serious thing for granola bars. for as long as i can remember, they've been a go-to staple in my life. it started when i was young with old school chewy bars, nutri-grain bars, and those super crunchy nature's valley bars. always there for a pick-me-up when hanger pangs are coming on strong.
i've since gone through a number of granola bar stages, the most memorable of which has been an obsession with lara bars for their simplicity in ingredients. but, paying one dollar or more for each little snack left me knowing there was a better way... so i started doing some research, and landed on these little wonders.
i first made these as a treat for some of my indiegogo supporters... they were so good that within a week, i was throwing together a second batch (one i could keep all to myself!). i have a feeling i'll be coming back to this one over and over again. sometimes i get hungry out of nowhere, and this is the perfect thing to have on hand for a quick snack. these should freeze well, and keep in the refrigerator for two weeks... now i just have to test how possible it is to actually keep them that long!
i would try this recipe as is to start with, then feel free to get creative with your mix-ins and type of nut butter used. the trick to them turning out well is two fold: first, using quick oats, or thick rolled oats pulsed in your blender which can more easily absorb moisture. second, gaining the perfect balance of moisture to dry ingredients will lead to the perfect texture in your bar. too moist and they'll be sticky. too dry and they'll fall apart. take this into account if you decide to start making substitutions!
these were adapted from the minimalist baker.
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs
1.5 cups rolled oats, pulsed in blender (or quick oats)
first, you want to create a paste with your dates by pureeing them with a food processor or a blender. be careful doing this, stopping the machine frequently, as it can be really hard on the motor (there may or may not have been some troubles in that department the first time i made these!). you want to make the puree with no added liquid if you have moist dates. i've yet to try this with dry dates, but you can soak dry dates in hot water for ten minutes to soften them if needed!
place date puree, walnuts, and oats in a big mixing bowl.
in a small saucepan, bring syrup to a gentle bowl over medium-high heat. add peanut butter and whisk to combine into a smooth mixture.
pour the maple-peanut liquid over the rest of the ingredients, and stir until thoroughly combined. i do this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but you can also do it with a strong arm and a wooden spoon.
stir in chocolate chips (if you're using nibs, you can add them with the rest of the ingredients. the chocolate might melt if you add it then!).
pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 pan lined with parchment paper. using your hands, firmly press the mixture until it evenly covers the pan. place the pan in the fridge for about an hour. once your bars have hardened a bit, lift the sling of parchment to remove them from the pan and slice into bars. store, with parchment separating layers, in the fridge or freezer - depending how fast you plan to eat them!
you can also double the recipe to fill a 9 x 13 pan for a bigger batch (yes, this is the way you should do it every time!).