Caro: Easy, Customizable, No-Bake Granola Bars

Oats! I know to most this will probably seem like the single most boring ingredient we could have chosen to get people excited about a new year of food blogging, but I love oats, and I was totally super pumped when we picked them for our 2013 debut.

I’m pretty sure this is because, while my body is 22 years old, my self is actually grandma-aged. I have lots to back this up with.

For instance. Friday, I was out for happy hour with some friends, when some guy turned around and said he thought he’d spilled something on my shirt, which prompted my buddy from work to turn around and say, “What, you mean on that shirt my grandma also owns?” Uhh, mean. I defended my shirt, all like, “I think it’s cute, and it makes me look put-together for work, and I bought it at a hip young-people-clothes store, blah blah blah,” until some other guy backed me up (I think) by saying, “Yeah! It’s stylish in a practical and minimalist way,” which I didn’t completely understand but took as a compliment anyway.

I held on to that compliment as an odd form of assurance that my style is cool and age-appropriate, which was working out just fine for me until I got to work the next day and realized my 50- or 60-something-year-old manager and I were wearing the same. exact. pair of shoes. What?! Old lady. It’s who I am.

Stuff like this happens to me all the time. I dress like a grandma (or so I hear from people I’m pretty sure are at least 70% wrong). I love, love, LOVE soup. Especially split pea. I watch TV Land shows… on DVD (as in, I pay for them). Yep.

So anyway, now you know all this stuff about my old soul or whatever, all in my attempt to justify my love for oats. I love em. Oats week is exciting.

It’s funny that Lauren mentioned Joy the Baker, ’cause the first thing I thought to make as I penned oats week onto my calendar was my favorite riff on her baked oatmeal. I take her recipe, dial up the cinnamon, and trade the dried cranberries, fresh raspberries, and pistachios for fresh strawberries and cacao nibs. It’s seriously delicious. It’s the kind of breakfast I dream dreamy dreams about. But my oven decided it was not going to turn on on my designated baking day.

So no-bake it had to be… and suitable for breakfast, since I wanted to actually be able to eat what I made (instead of ending up with 47 oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies to force-feed my coworkers). Granola bars were the perfect back-up plan.

peanut-butter-pretzel-chocolate-chip granola bars

When your camera’s been broken for months, you have nothing to offer people but subpar artsy iPhone pictures. Better than nothing!

Two Peas and Their Pod was the source of the recipe that won my no-bake granola bar search. I usually mess with recipes to suit my tastes, but I pretty much went with this one to the letter, except that I tossed in some cacao nibs. (I’m obsessed with them.) Like a lot of other recipes, this one’s expensive the first time around if you don’t have the right ingredients on hand… but the good news is that once you buy the ingredients, you can make a whole buncha batches without having to buy anything else. So I won’t be one of those people who tries to tell you making your own granola bars is cheaper than investing in a $2.50 box of Nature Valleys at the grocery store, but I will tell you that over time the cost pretty much evens out, and if you make your own bars at home, you have the added benefit of putting whatever you want in them!!!

And, on that note, the beauty of this recipe is its customizability. Allergic to peanut butter? Almond butter, Biscoff spread, Nutella. Don’t like pretzels? Corn flakes, nut of choice, potato chips. Chocolate chips too boring? Cinnamon chips, toffee bits, sprinkles?! Ok, fine, sprinkles in a granola bar may be weird. But you get my point. Make this the granola bar of your dreams!

By the way, these are much better than any store-bought granola bar I’ve had. I could just be biased… but I have my parents on my side, and they dislike most of what I make, so I’m going to guess it’s just that these are actually super yummy. And they’re easy, quick, and customizable, so there’s not much of an excuse for settling for the boxed variety. I’d much rather take the time to make my own & adapt ’em to whatever I’m in the mood for in a given week. In other words, these’ll be a repeat creation in my kitchen. I hope you try them and feel the same way!

photo (1)

Three cheers for granola bars. The breakfast of champions.


Peanut-Butter-Pretzel-Chocolate-Chip-(but-easily-customizable) Granola Bars

As I mentioned above, take liberties with these to make them your own. They’re pretty difficult to mess up, and they’ll be sooo good even if they end up kind of crumbly. You can substitute honey or maple syrup for the corn syrup and mess with the add-ins (the pretzels, chocolate chips, and cacao nibs) as you wish. Enjoy!

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 8-10 bars

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (light if you prefer it, of course!)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or crunchy… I’d have gone with extra-crunchy but Walmart was out of it.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup Rice Krispies or other crispy rice cereal
3/4 cup chopped pretzels
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup cacao nibs

1. Line an 8 x 8 in. pan with parchment paper. This’ll give ya granola bars that are about 3/4 of an inch thick (tall). If you’d like thicker/less thick granola bars, choose your pan accordingly.
2. Get a large saucepan, set it on the stove, and toss the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter into it. Set the heat to medium-low, and stir the ingredients occasionally, until they melt, meld, and start to bubble around the edges of the saucepan and a little toward the middle.
3. Once the ingredients are all bubbly, cook them for two minutes while stirring non-stop. Two minutes of total focus on the saucepan… I think you can do it.
4. Two minutes gone. You made it! Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the vanilla extract.
5. Add the oats, Rice Krispies, pretzels, and cacao nibs to the saucepan and stir everything together. Now… you can add the chocolate chips here, too, like I did, for a more general chocolate flavor throughout your granola bar. If you’d rather the chocolate chips stay intact, hold on to them for now.
6. Pour the entire contents of the saucepan into the parchment-papered pan, and spread/press the mixture evenly into the pan. Here’s where you can add the chocolate chips to the top and press them down gently if you want them to not melt.
7. Place the pan, now containing one giant granola bar, into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Everything was still falling apart for me at 30 minutes, so I went with an hour and was happy about it.
8. Once the giant bar is completely cooled, use a sharp knife to cut it into as many granola bars as your heart desires. I cut out ten approximately Fiber-One-bar-sized bars. Next time, I think I’ll cut 1-inch squares… granola bites!
9. Wrap ’em up, store ’em in the fridge, and marvel at a week’s worth of good-to-go, satisfying, tasty breakfast. Woo!

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One thought on “Caro: Easy, Customizable, No-Bake Granola Bars

  1. […] really into the blog Two Peas and their Pod. Remember her easy, customizable, no-bake granola bars from a few weeks ago? Those magical bars that can be modified to fit just about ANY taste? Mmmhmm, […]

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