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Before I became seriously interested in cooking, which happened maybe a decade ago, I used to think certain things were better bought at a grocery store. This ranged from things that just seemed more convenient to buy (salad dressing or pesto) to the ones that seemed stupidly complicated to make at home (almost everything in Trader Joes’ frozen meal section). Turns out I was mostly wrong. And over time, the needle from “impossible to try making myself” to “this is honestly easier and better than anything I could buy” has gradually shifted. There are still things I buy that I don’t see myself making – mostly endless jars of cookie butter to eat directly out of the jar put on toast, but I’ve been surprised by how much tastier the results are when you make things yourself.

These granola bars are a prime example. Although I’ve made my own granola for ages now, I’ve never thought of actually transforming them into homemade bars. I’ve bought a variety of brands over the years, and usually have at least one old Kind bar disintegrating at the bottom of my handbag at any given moment. Well, no longer. Who knew just how simple, convenient, budget friendly and delicious it was to slip a pan of these out of your own oven? And how amazing that I no longer have to spend hours scanning the ingredient lists of granola bars at the store, annoyed that it has almost everything I want, except ugh – why oh why do they insist on adding peanuts to everything?

If you’ve ever found yourself as ridiculously obsessive over your granola bars as I am, here is your solution! This recipe is super flexible. Add any nuts, fruits, seeds, and ground up mystery ingredients (or let’s be honest, chocolate chips) you like. Add more or less sweetener, depending on your preference. And bake it all together into golden bars with the perfect chew-crunch ratio, individually wrapped in plastic if you prefer to go the extra mile. And the next time you need breakfast or a snack on the go, pick up one of these babies and give yourself a pat on the back for being so badass.

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Anything/Everything Granola Bars

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar (I went light on the sugar)
1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a blender)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 to 3 cups dried fruits and nuts (I used a combo of dried cherries, golden raisins, chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, and flax seed this time, but go wild!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter (or an equal amount of a combo of vegetable oil and butter)
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (such as Karo)
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8″ square pan with parchment paper so you have some overhang on the sides. Lightly grease the parchment paper with a non-stick spray.

Combine all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, melted butter or oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.

Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges but still seem a bit soft in the middle. Cool the bars in their pan completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, remove from the pan using your parchment “sling” and cut with a sharp serrated knife into squares or rectangles. These can be individually wrapped in plastic wrap for added convenience, and store well in the fridge or at room temperature.

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