Crunchy oat and honey granola bars

When my husband and I were first married, I didn’t know my way around the kitchen very well.  I could bake by following recipes and box mixes closely, but cooking was far from my forte.  In nearly 14 years, I’ve come a long way.  I’ve started doing more things from scratch from pumpkin bread to pizza dough to granola.  Here’s the thing about homemade granola: it sounds super impressive.  Well, maybe it doesn’t to you, but it does to me.  When I was in early college, my parents and I were on vacation and stayed at a bed and breakfast whose owner made homemade granola.  We were all three impressed.  I never thought to make it myself.

And then came Pinterest.  I pinned a few granola recipes and thought of making them.  I tried a friend’s homemade granola and found I really liked it.  I just didn’t take the plunge of making it myself until a couple of months ago.  Ever since then I’ve made a batch of granola almost weekly.  I love it!  It’s super easy, and my whole family enjoys it.  And, because I make it myself from scratch, I know exactly what’s in it and that there is no extra sugar added or anything like that.  Even better, my big kiddo really enjoys cooking with me and this is one food she loves making with me.

The first time I made it, I stirred it around and crumbled it into small pieces thinking that I’d eat it like cereal.  And then I tasted it.  It tastes almost exactly like the Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey bars.  So now I leave it in big chunks and we eat it all sorts of times — at breakfast, as a snack, as dessert, whenever we want.  Even my picky husband likes them.  And the 3-year-old loves them.  One of these days, the baby will be old enough to love them, too, I hope.  I love them because they satisfy my craving for something sweet while not being too bad for me (like say a cookie or mini candy bar would be) and I get an easy way to eat oats, which are supposed to help with milk production.  As a nursing mom, I’m all for anything that helps with milk production.

These homemade granola chunks are pretty much a staple around my house right now.

Crunchy oat and honey granola bars
(recipe adapted from Tiny Urban Kitchen)

2 cups oats (I’m going to be honest and admit this was where I usually got stumped with such recipes.  Where the heck did I find oats at the grocery store?  Turns out it just means the stuff you buy in a canister to make oatmeal with.  I’ve bought the quick-cooking kind and the other kind.  It really doesn’t matter for granola.)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon water

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

2.Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them together.  The mixture will be sort of clumpy and wet without being soaking.

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick pan liner (I’m currently using the latter that I got by mistake but find works really well for this).

4. Spread the granola mixture out in a thin layer all over the pan.  It should look like this:

5. Bake it in the oven for 10 minutes, then stir it around and press it back into the same thin layer as before.

6. Bake for 10 to 12 more minutes until it’s a lovely golden brown with crispy edges and your kitchen smells divine.  It should look like this:

Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem super crunchy when it’s still warm.  It crunches up as it cools.  If you want it in small chunks to eat like cereal or as a topping, then stir it around again as soon as it comes out.  If you want to leave it in chunks to snack on like I do, then let it cool completely and lift it off the pan (maybe with the help of a spatula) and break it into chunks.  I store mine in a fancy quart-sized ziptop bag to keep it fresh.  It will last about a week before it starts to get on the chewier side.  Enjoy!

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