Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

There is an Andrei Codrescu poem — or maybe it’s part of a poem* — that says:

Anything that moves faster than I can walk

Does so by a mean trick.

I like the specific sentiment about walking vs. getting around another way; I like even more the general, gentle reminder that you don’t get something for nothing.

Take, for example, granola bars. I spent several months last year beating my head against a wall trying to put together a home-made granola bar I wouldn’t feel terrible sending in my girls’ lunches.  I hate boxed granola bars. I hate the wrapping, the smallness of them, the obnoxiously large box they all come in, the back-to-nature claims they imply or state outright, the healthy veneer for something we know is just one step away from being either a cookie or a candy bar.

But what put me over the edge, the moment that made me decide granola bars and I had to go our separate ways, was a comment from Pista. Over the summer I told them we were going to try out a granola bar recipe, and she asked, “like real granola bars?”  “Yes,” I told her, “real granola bars!  Why not?”  “Well,” she said, “how are we going to make the wrappers?

She’s so right!  How do you re-create, in a home-made food, the satisfying pop of breaking a seal, the welcoming crinkly feeling of cellophane or foil or paper-wrapped plastic.  It’s so much less gratifying —  in a horribly conditioned, trained way — to take your mom-made granola bar out of a metal box, or even a Ziploc bag.

It’s all about the wrappers, the box, the colors. . . .  It has to end!

The other significant moment — for the recipe, not for the packaging — was when I realized that even the healthiest of packaged granola bars are basically a sugar party — every kind of sugar is invited!  I don’t have any problem with, say, the amount of sugar in a Kashi TLC Granola Bar, but realizing that the glue holding it all together is sugar in 5 different forms made me relax a bit about the high (and chemically impossible) standards I had for myself, trying to invent a granola bar that adheres to itself without the need for sugar.

Anyway, this recipe has a good bit of sugar, but we’ve been enjoying eating them out of a box on the counter, without the problem of wrappers and packaging.  They’ve been successful (i.e., they’ve been eaten) as lunch-box items. And because the batter is egg-less and pretty fool-proof, they are  agood Saturday-morning baking activity with two busy 5-year-olds!  Don’t you think the satisfaction of licking the bowl makes up for the blah-ness of the packaging?  I do.

*Can someone please help me find this poem?  Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or even unsweetened nibs. . . yum….)
  • 1/4 cup flax meal

Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a small baking pan (9×9 is big enough) with parchment paper.

Mix the wet ingredients together.  I believe that you can be flexible with the wet ingredients, as long as they provide some oil and some sweetness.  We have made these with peanut butter, then eliminated the canola oil.  I don’t have the exact measurements written down, but it’s not rocket science.  I’m just avoiding peanut butter, and nuts in the batter, because of the nut ban.

Stir in the dry ingredients.  It’s impossible to over-mix, so this is a great job for a little person.

Spread the granola out on the parchment paper, to the desired thickness — keeping in mind the bars won’t rise like cookies.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  The baking time depends on the thickness of the bars.

Let the bars cool thoroughly before cutting them.  I have no idea how long they last, because they always go pretty fast!

[One other thing:  In poking around to see what different granola bars contain, I was forced to remember Trader Joe’s voluntary recall of their granola bars last year.  Because the granola bars possibly contained Salmonella.  There is no pathway through which a granola bar would contain Salmonella that I can feel good about.  Isn’t that a good reason to make granola bars at home?]

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