Wine and Granola Benders

Down the street from our new offices is my new favorite wine shop: Vinopolis. I love going in there because it feels like a vineyard wine cellar — the temperature is about 50 degrees and there are open crates of bottles everywhere with friendly people willing to give guidance. They offer a wide range of choices from Oregon Vineyards we all know to smaller boutique wines that I’ve never heard of.

We were getting ready for a trip to Mt. Hood, a trip that involved camping. I bought a bottle of pinot noir in keeping with the theme:

This bottle is light, delicious and the packaging is well, kind of darling. The vineyard is just outside of Silverton. You would like more info you say? Here you go.

So I got the wine (check!) but heading to the mountain also requires that you have protein powered energy bars, right? You can’t head into the wilderness without granola. It just feels un-American…or like unpreparedness. Granola will save you if you’re lost in the wilderness for days. Taking granola also means that you’ll be hiking. Vigorously. And you’ll need a snack.

Alexandra’s Kitchen served up this recipe a few weeks ago for granola bars that can do back bends, a la olympic gymnasts. I’m not one to eat a crunchy granola bar. I much prefer the texture of a Lara Bar, something chewy with a semi-frequent crunch.

The salt from the almond butter and the sweet from the honey are great compliments to one another.

Chewy Granola Bars
yield = 18 per batch; granola bar mix yields 4 batches

Make-Ahead Granola Bar Mix
4 cups rolled oats
2 cups sliced almonds
2 cups sweetened coconut

1. Combine all in a bowl. Place in a ziplock bag until ready to make the granola bars. (As noted above, this bag will yield 4 batches of granola bars.)

Chewy Granola Bars
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons brown sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup almond butter
1/4 cup honey or corn syrup (the corn syrup makes chewier bars, fyi)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of the above mix (or use 1 cup of rolled oats + 1/2 cup slivered almonds + 1/2 cup sweetened coconut)
3 tablespoons wheat germ (toasted or untoasted)
3/4 or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped cashews (or almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or raisins, apricots)

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lay a piece of parchment paper over a 9×9-inch baking pan so that it will cover the bottom as well as the sides of the pan. Press the paper into the pan to line it. (If you can secure the parchment paper to the pan with clips, it will help when you are spreading the batter into the pan.)

2. Melt the butter (if you haven’t already), then add it to a small mixing bowl along with the brown sugar, butter, honey and vanilla.

3. In a food processor, add the granola bar mix (or the noted smaller quantities of oats, almonds and coconut) along with the wheat germ, salt, cashews and dried fruit. Pulse briefly, as in 3-5 times. You don’t want pureed ingredients! The nuts and dried berries should still be in coarse pieces.

4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until nicely combined. Spread into prepared pan and flatten. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned on top. (The longer you bake it, the firmer the final bar will be. It might take a batch or two for you to realize what texture you prefer.) Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 25 minutes. Pull up on the parchment paper and remove the block from the pan. Lay it on a cutting board and cut the bar into pieces. Let cool completely before storing.

Have a fantastic day!

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