Sometimes I feel like I get into a bit of a rut when it comes to ingredients. There are tried and true flavors and combinations that are hard to step away from. And if you ask me, everything is made better by garlic, jalapenos, Sriracha sauce, or Sambal Oelek (another chili sauce).
I try to remember that my goal is to experiment with dishes and to push my limits outside of my own comfort zone. But then I go to the farmer’s market and head straight for my favorite stalls where the vendors know me and greet me with a smile, and I can always count on gorgeous leeks and fennel, fat spring onions, bright red bell peppers, and those spicy jalapenos that I just have to buy. Other things will catch my eye that I might buy on impulse, not quite knowing what I’m going to do with them once I get home, but lately, my refrigerator has been full of familiar items that I can use to pull a dinner together really thinking about it.
So the last few days I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with some dishes that are outside of the norm for me. I had some ideas down, and then an opportunity presented itself: Smart & Final wanted me to go check out their new bulk section at a nearby store and create a recipe using bulk bin items. Immediately, my mind went to granola bars. Now I know that for a lot of people, granola bars are very firmly inside their comfort zones, but the only granola bars I’ve ever eaten are the kind graced by a smiling man in a Quaker hat. And since I’m no longer drinking from a sippy cup, there’s really no good excuse to eat those. Time to try something new!
Having no idea what I wanted to put in my granola bars, I was a bit overwhelmed by all my choices at the bulk bins…the selection was huge. All kinds of nuts, dried fruit, grains, beans, pasta, cereal, candy, snack mixes, and baking goods were represented, along with a selection of fresh coffee beans. Talk about a kid in a candy (er, bulk?) store.
After finally settling on the maple pecan granola, I started choosing other items to add to my granola bars. Really, anything goes here, and if you like it, throw it in. The combinations are endless.
No-Bake Nutty Chocolate Granola Bars
Makes 12 bars
3 cups granola (I used maple pecan)
1/4 cup honey-roasted cashews
1/4 cup roasted, salted almonds
2 tablespoons dry roasted pepitas
2 tablespoons roasted, salted pistachio nut meat
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2/3 semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided use
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons yogurt chips, divided use
Toss first 7 ingredients together in a large bowl.
In a saucepan, heat butter, sugar, honey and syrup. Bring to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until sugar is dissolved. Pour immediately over granola mixture in bowl and stir to combine, making sure all the mixture is coated in syrup. Stir in 1/3 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup yogurt chips (they may melt slightly).
Pour granola mixture into an ungreased 9”x13” baking pan (I used metal). Using your fingers, press mixture firmly into pan. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of yogurt chips over the top and press in just to make stick.
Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. When ready to serve, run knife around the edge of the pan. Turn pan over onto a large cutting board. (The entire sheet should pop out. If not, bang the back of the pan a bit.) Cut into bars.
Microwave remaining 1/3 cup of chocolate chips until melted and smooth. Transfer melted chocolate to a plastic baggie and snip the corner off to create a piping bag. Pipe chocolate onto each bar as desired. Return to refrigerator for a few minutes for chocolate drizzle to firm up.
Store in refrigerator.
With no offense to the Quaker man, and at the risk of sounding immodest, these are the best granola bars I’ve ever had and are so much better than anything out of a package. Every bite surprises you with a different flavor and there’s just the right amount sweet and salty. They’re nutty, chewy, chocolaty, and could almost pass as dessert (depending on your level of sweets addiction). And with the added bonus of not having to turn an oven on means I will be making these again and again.
As a member of the #sfsmarties group, I work with Smart & Final providing feedback and using their products.
This post has been compensated by Collective Bias. All opinions are my own.