As I shuffle towards the finish line of this family-expansion project we began so long ago that it’s become a running joke* there are days when I honestly do not understand why human beings need to gestate beyond 37 weeks. I mean, pretty much the minute the doctor estimated this kid to be 6 pounds, I concluded “it’s cooked! It can come out now, right?” and imagined our 4th of July, baby snuggled in wrap, beer in one hand, medium-rare burger in the other and, lo, it sounded pretty grand to me. Because, of course, we know from experience that’s exactly what the first weeks of having a newborn look like. Fortunately, there are other days when I wake up and feel almost like a person who does not have feet in her rib cage, when by some miracle, I’m able to swim a mile, find some forgotten dress in my closet that actually fits with dignity, and cook things we can pass off as dinners, present and future, and this is one of those days so let’s frolic in it.
In a few days, my son starts a day camp in which the kids are supposed to bring their own lunches — no, not even summer brings a reprieve from my favorite activity — and snacks. Snacks! Predictably, this has stressed me out because I neither want him to feel unloved for being the only kid without a package of some sort of candy/gummy/cookie monstrosity or some other unwholesome delight nor do I want him to develop a package-of-monstrosity-a-day habit. Ideally, I’d rather him eat something homemade where the ingredient list didn’t sound like a science project. Realistically, my best-laid plans will probably only take us through the first couple weeks, after which we’ll be too busy not to succumb to all the wonders of the packaged food world, but until then, I plan to give myself an A for effort. This is also a nut-free facility, a couple of his friends are gluten-free, another cannot have dairy, and all of these factors have collided to finally motivate me to update my go-to granola bars accordingly.
The newest version are indeed nut-free, focusing instead on seeds; they’re also wheat flour-and dairy-free, simpler than ever to make and just barely sweet, though without refined sugar. And also, they have chunks of chocolate in them. Which I will totally pretend is for the kid. And the kid will not mind. But mostly, I wanted something that felt like a treat — for him, for us — without being egregiously over-the-top and dark chocolate, magically and without fail, always makes that happen.
* remember these these Club Med-inspired corn muffins? Pregnant. How about these Miami-inspired endives with oranges and almonds? Knocked up then too. Thanksgiving’s cranberry crumble pie? Also in a family way! However about the squash toasts Halloween 2014? With child, although I didn’t yet know why orange vegetables no longer tasted good to me.
One year ago: Cherry Almond Dutch Baby
Two years ago: Peach and Pecan Sandy Crumble
Three years ago: Triple Berry Summer Buttermilk Bundt
Four years ago: Linguine with Pea Pesto
Five years ago: Blue Cheese and Red Potato Tart
Six years ago: Cheese Straws and Strawberries and Dumplings
Seven years ago: Sweet Cherry Pie
Eight years ago: Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad (still my husband’s favorite potato salad!)
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Fairytale of New York
1.5 Years Ago: Gingerbread Snacking Cake
2.5 Years Ago: Parsnip Latkes with Horseradish and Dill
3.5 Years Ago: Cashew Butter Balls
Chocolate Chunk Granola Bars
As mentioned, these are dairy, gluten and nut-free. They can easily (and should be) doubled to fit in the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Like most granola bar recipes, there’s flexibility here. I love the crispy crunch of uncooked millet, but you could instead use quinoa, quinoa flakes, wheat germ (although this would negate the GF status) or even just more oats to replace it. The sunflower seed butter could be replaced with tahini, or another nut butter if you needn’t make these nut-free. For the dried fruit, I used tart cherries because cherries and chocolate always remind me of Cherry Garcia Ice Cream, hooray. If you’ve made the thick, chewy granola bars from the archives, these are a bit thinner and I think you’ll find these less sweet and ingredient-heavy.
Yield: 16 2×2-inch granola bars
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup rolled oats, finely ground, or 1/4 cup oat flour
3/4 cup dried shredded coconut (I used a medium grind)
1/3 cup uncooked millet (see alternatives up top)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 cup chopped dried fruit
1 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/4 cup olive oil or coconut oil, warmed until liquefied
1/4 cup maple syrup, honey or golden syrup
Heat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line an 8-by-8 inch square pan with two sheets of parchment paper, extending each up two sides, forming a “sling” for your bars to make them easy to remove.
In a large bowl, combine oats, oat flour or ground oats, coconut, millet, salt, cinnamon (if using), dried fruit and chocolate. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together sunflower seed butter, oil and sweetener of choice until smooth. Pour wet mixture into dry and stir until combined. Transfer to prepared pan, spreading until flat, then use an addition square of parchment paper to protect your hand as you press, press, press the ingredients tightly into all corners of the pan, until they can be pressed no flatter.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are golden and the edges are light brown. Let cool completely before cutting; they’ll be even easier to cut without crumbling if you chill them in the fridge first, so feel free to cool them there. Once cool, use the parchment “sling” to lift bars from pan and transfer to cutting board. Use a sharp, serrated knife in a very gentle sawing motion to cut bars into desired sizes (I usually go for 16 2×2-inch squares).
Bars will keep at room temperature for up to a week in an airtight container, but I prefer to freeze them, individually wrapped, until needed. They only need to be out of the freezer for about an hour to fully defrost.