Truth is, they're also sugary (especially brands like Cliff, and any brand that throws in peanut butter and chocolate chips), and you end up paying a lot for so little (one box from the store will usually last me a week). So lately, I've endeavored to make my own, so the ingredients would be purer (less sugar and artificial preservatives) and to maybe save money.
After doing this a couple of times, I find that it's a quick and easy recipe, taking maybe thirty minutes to prepare and create, and it needs only a few utensils (just a baking pan, mixing bowl, measuring cup, spoon, saucepan, cutting board, baking sheet, some parchment paper). And the recipes are quite versatile--if you look around online, you can find hundreds of variants with all different ingredients and methods. In essence, all you have to do is make a sugary mixture (butter, brown sugar, honey) and combine it with some toasted oats and nuts. Chill it in the fridge, cut it into bars, then enjoy. One batch can make enough bars to last a week, and the ingredients can probably be used to make months' worth of batches. Cheap, fast, easy food for writers who need all the time and cash they can get. On top of that, they usually taste great--sometimes better than the store-bought brands.
Because there are so many different ways to make these things, I'm just going to give you the recipe I used the last few times. It's originally from a recipe my mother forwarded to me. But the possibilities are endless--some people used sweet condensed milk and no honey, others add coconut, others use peanut butter, you can many different kinds of nuts and berries, and so much more. This recipe is purposefully simple and basic so you can mod it to your tastes and experiment.
- 2 1/2 cups of rolled oats
- 1/2 cups of roughly-chopped nuts
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 3/4 cups of extra mix-in ingredients (such as dried fruits, coconut, chocolate chips, etc)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil, and lightly spray with cooking spray (Note: I never used cooking spray on the parchment paper, the stuff doesn't stick to it anyway. Come to think of it, I think the original recipe just got its commas messed up).
- Place oats and nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 8 - 10 minutes until lightly toasted.
- In a saucepan, add the honey, butter, and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Then, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
- When the oats and nuts are toasted, pour them into a large bowl.
- Add the buttery mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the extra mix-in ingredients (Note: if you're using chocolate, be aware that it will melt and become all swirly in the mixture. Which can be good in its own way. But if you want whole chips intact, wait until the mixture cools before adding). Stir some more until everything is covered in the sticky mixture.
- Place the mixture in the square pan. Use a rubber spatula or bottom of a greased measuring cup (or do what I do and place some parchment paper on top) and press down on the mixture.
- Chill the granola bars for at least two hours.
- When ready, lift the bars from the pan using the edges of the foil/parchment paper. Place it all on a cutting board and cut into desired shapes/sizes.
- Eat. Serve. Store on a cool, dry place. Enjoy.