A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.
This week: Kelly fantasizes about the origin of granola bars and whips up a chewy batch full of spice.
Photo by Sarah Shatz
The "granola bar" genre is a vast one. I give to you another fictional, historical culinary vision: I imagine the making of the granola bar first started with a home cook of the frontier woman variety. A rustic, sturdy woman with hands strong and rough and worn by time and wood burning stoves who began by toasting oats in a cast-iron skillet over a fire. To the pan she added brown sugar, a bit of butter, nuts, and seeds. She stirred the mixture right in the skillet, and then baked it off until it was good and crunchy. She sliced up the bars for her hardworking sons who did work outdoors and woke up before dawn and had hearts of gold, but rarely elicited emotion beyond the foreboding "storm’s a-coming" variety. Yep. That’s when the granola bar was first invented, I'm pretty sure.
Back to reality.
Granola itself is generally defined as a breakfast food or snackable mixture of toasted oats, nuts, seeds, and fruit with some sort of sweetener devoured by the handful or spoonful with milk or yogurt. Pretty standard stuff. But when I say the granola bar genre is vast, I mean it. I mean, there are the granola bars that sit right next to the candy bars at the pharmacy near me. They might be labeled as a granola bar, but they have just as much sugar as a candy bar, so I’d rather be honest and just go for the candy bar. Just the other day, I was watching some cooking show and the host made granola bars with -- get this -- corn syrup, brown sugar, white sugar, and molasses. And then dipped the bars in chocolate. I think there may have been an oat or two in there somewhere.
There is also an absolutely amazing variety of truly healthy granola bars -- raw, gluten free, oat free, chewy, crunchy, vegan. Some of these are outstandingly delicious. Many, really. I mean, it’s competitive out there. And the genre has stretched out to include things like protein bars, energy bars, and breakfast bars. It’s a bar-eat-bar world out there, I’ll tell you.
I have specifics in mind when I think of the granola bar that appeals most to my bar sensibilities. First off: It must be chewy. I am not looking to chip a tooth on one of the more, shall we say, aggressively textured bars. Chewiness is a must. Next, I want my granola bars to have a date element. I love dates. They are naturally sweet, molasses-y goodness. A friend of mine called dates "nature’s caramels," and I believe that’s right on. Thirdly, I need a nut-seed element. I love the richness of nuts and seeds. Of course, oats are a must, too.
In my Chewy Spiced Granola Bars, dates, apricots, oats, nuts, citrus juice, vanilla extract, and tons of spice (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom) all come together in the food processor, making preparation almost absurdly easy. A sprinkling of flaked coconut and orange zest atop these bars and a couple hours in the fridge is all it takes to finish these guys up. Get ready to sink your teeth in.
Chewy Spiced Granola Bars
Makes 12-16 bars
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw sesame seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
3/4 cup dried coconut flakes
2 tablespoons orange zest
In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!
Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips. I'll be preparing these granola bars this Saturday, September 29, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. at our Union Square store.
If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.
Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Artichoke-Olive Hummus Stuffed Pita Sandwiches.
Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.