Monday, June 6, 2011

In bulk



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.

34 comments:

  1. So jealous of your bulk aisle, we have nothing like that here! Your bars look gorgeous and I love the styling!

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  2. These are GORGEOUS! I love making homemade granola, but have never made bars...pinning this one...

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  3. Those bulk bins are so. amazing. I wish my Smart & Final would get them! And funny that you made granola bars - my 10 year old was just asking this morning if we could make them. Guess I know what recipe we're using :)

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  4. Absolutely beautiful bars...and bulk section is my favorite too. I made recently similar bars....thanks for sharing:)
    https://mywanderingspoon.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/sunny-granola-dry-papaya-bars/

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  5. Muito bonito, adorei a receita. Tenha uma boa semana. Um abraço, Marta.

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  6. I ma sure this must taste so much Better than the ones at the supermarket; you did a great job at the bulk food store; looks great.
    Rita

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  7. I don't know how I'd handle the sensory overload of all those goods in those bins. That was amazing. You made outstanding choices though and the granola bars are awesome. Sorry, smiling Quaker man. :)

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  8. Lot's of goodness and textures! Love them :)

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  9. YUM!!! Your granola bars look amazing! Thanks for sharing!!

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  10. What fun, creating your own granola bars with just the things you love in them - they look really amazing. Great job!

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  11. The old guy in the funny hat should take some lessons from you. You have a winner with these granola bars.

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  12. The granola bars sound yummy, and I wish my Smart & Final had the bulk bins!

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  13. I wish we had bulk bins here in Australia! Your granola bars look so much better than the sad little muesli bars I normally buy. My 3yo daughter would love to help make these!

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  14. "... everything is made better by garlic, jalapenos, Sriracha sauce, or Sambal Oelek.." I'd have to agree!

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  15. this is a keeper! book-marked. Love the idea of not using an oven to make these bars :)

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  16. Those look amazing! And I didn't know that Smart & Final had bulk bins - I hope my local one does!

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  17. Ohhhhhh these look so yummy Karen! I like "no-bake" part because I don't bake! >_< I didn't know about Smart & Final has section like this. I think there is one in San Mateo...(not 100% sure), but I should check it out!

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  18. Very nice!!!! I think it's great you pushed yourself into making these! I wish you would "push" soem my way right about now! Iknow what you mean too...about being in a rut. I get like that too!

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  19. love those healthy breakfast treats! Good to have come here following a tweet. Great space.

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  20. This is the best granola bar recipe that I have found, thank you so much! I will be trying these very, very soon.

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  21. Ooooh! That looks so tasty. I used to love the Quaker oats granola bars but since I made my own, I haven't looked back :) Thanks for sharing!

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  22. These look wonderful. :) I would have had trouble deciding what to use faced with that kind of selection too.

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  23. These look great! I love making my own snacks without all the processed junk.

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  24. what a great idea, Karen! I love all the bulk bin goodies and 'no bake' is PERFECT for this season. Can't wait to try them!

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  25. First of all our bulk section looks nothing like that. Secondly we had a S&F, but they closed. Now I'm envious. Love these yummy bars. Hope you have a great week.
    -Gina-

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  26. Your granola bars look amazing :) I have yet to make my own, but you are inspiring me to go and get the necessary ingredients to get creative!

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  27. I often make granola bars, and i really like to make banana split ones - with soft banana and chocolate chips - it took a while to work out how to make them chewy and not just soggy, but i think i have cracked it. Granola bars rock!

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  28. You are inspiring me to start baking, you know I have ALL that baking stuff in the closet, you need to come over so we can create together! :)

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  29. Granola bars seem to always remain on my list of things to make and never actually get made. I love your no-bake method and they look incredible. Looks like I'll be crossing these off my list very soon! Thanks :)

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  30. Delicious! You did those freebies proud... I would love one of those for a snack any time

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  31. I just wanted to know if anyone knows where I could buy bulk foods like this for granola... nuts.. oats... etc.
    i live in new york city, and I am not sure where to go.

    thank you !
    Rita

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  32. I don't know if you have Whole Foods in your area, but they would likely have a nice bulk section. Any health food store should have bulk bins. Hope that helps!

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