Olive Oil and Maple Granola Bars


olive oil maple granola bars

Hi, friends. I’ve been away for awhile, and I’ve missed you. I couldn’t stay away forever, and hope that 2015 will be a true new beginning, with more posts and sharing in this space. In the meantime, if you want to catch up with me in “realtime,” follow along on Instagram for the meal-to-meal update of what’s simmering in the kitchen, and tell me what you’d like to see me share here. What brought me back?  Granola Bars. Of course.

Granola bars are an essential nutrient in this house – easy to grab in the morning on your way out the door for a quick breakfast, or to slip into a bag for snacks while traveling. I’m endlessly tweaking, trying new flavor combinations, spices, sweeteners and nut butters to stick ‘em together, but I get bored…even with four recipes already posted here!

Earlier this fall, my girl Johanna, from the fabulous DeFloured Bakery, gifted me some granola clusters leftover from her experiments with making granola bars. As we were discussing technique, materials and “goo-stickiness-factor,” she mentioned that she was only using olive oil and maple syrup for the fat and sweetener, and that the combination made for a more savory bar with the sweetness muted, even though there was the same amount of maple syrup as I would use in sugars and honey in my recipes. Then I tasted the granola, and I was SOLD. I had to get back in the game and start playing.

Johanna’s granola clusters had the same savory crispness of my favorite granola recipe from Molly – with the combination of maple and olive oil making for a very satisfying, not too sweet granola that is irresistible for snacking or scattering atop a small bowl of greek yogurt. I wanted to achieve that same crispness that the olive oil brings, but in bar form.

This would prove to be a great challenge, as the oil being a more slippery partner for the thinner maple syrup, my initial forays resulted in delicious granola, but not the sturdy, yet crispy bars I was seeking. A few lucky friends have been sampling the evolution of this recipe for weeks as I went from loose granola, to fragile bars, to an almost-there bar that just didn’t quite hold up to transport in my lunchbag without crumbling. Today, I got the mix right, and now it’s time to release it to you.

The finished bars are less spiced than my cocoa granola bars or smoked paprika bars, as I wanted the nuts and deep savoriness of the maple and olive oil to be the star here, so I just warmed things up a touch with a little garam masala, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper for a hint of mystery.

Coconut Garam Masala Granola Bars
Makes 24 Bars (4 rows, 6 bars per row)

Note: This is a smaller batch than my other granola bar recipes, so please use a quarter sheet pan (9×13 rimmed baking sheet).
Inspired by Orangette and Defloured Bakery 

  • 2 ½ cups gluten free rolled oats (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 ½ c mixed seeds and nuts (I used a mix of sunflower seeds, pepitas, pecans)
  • ¾ cup unsweetened large flake dried coconut
  • 2 T Butter
  • ⅓ c olive oil
  • ¼ c  cup maple
  • 1/3 c brown rice syrup
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 cup almond butter (I use Trader Joes salted, unsweetened creamy)
  • ¾ tsp morton’s kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp garam masala
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground black pepper

Equipment:

  • quarter sheet pan (9×13 rimmed baking sheet)
  • small saucepan, preferably non-stick
  • small silicone spatula
  • large, stiff silicone spatula
  • parchment paper

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 300, convection setting if you’ve got it.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and add the oats and pepitas and sunflower seeds, and gently mix together with your (clean) hands.
  3. Combine the maple syrup, olive oil, almond butter, salt, garam masala, black pepper, allspice and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Set aside.
  4. Pop the oat mixture into the oven, on the middle rack. Toast for 20 minutes, stir, and then add the coconut flakes and pecans, stirring into the mix with a spatula. Toast for another 10 minutes then stir again. Toast for another 8 minutes, while you heat the saucepan of liquids.
  5. Place the syrup/oil saucepan over medium heat, stirring regularly with a small spatula to incorporate the spices and almond butter into the liquids until you have a smooth “glue.” Do not bring the mixture to a boil, but slow lazy bubbles are okay – you need the syrup just on the edge of simmering. Once the final 8 minutes of oat toasting is done and the coconut is starting to turn a warm toasty tan at the edges, the liquid mixture should be warm and a smooth, thickish mixture with approximately the thickness of cold maple syrup, dripping off a raised spatula in ribbons.
  6. Remove the oat mixture out of the oven and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Raise the oven temp to 325, convection setting if you have it.
  8. Pour half of the syrupy glue over top and mix into the oats using a stiff spatula, ensuring all the oats get a thin skim of the sticky mixture. Then, drizzle the last half of the goo over the oats, and stir together – put some muscle and patience into it to ensure an even, sticky coat.
  9. Place the parchment paper back onto your rimmed baking sheet, and pour the sticky mixture out onto the baking sheet into a few lumps across the full pan. Use your spatula to spread the mixture into a semi-even packed layer. Take another smaller sheet of parchment and place it over one corner of the pan, and use your hands to press the mixture firmly down with even pressure into one well-packed layer, moving the smaller piece of parchment across the sheet pan as you go, until you’ve managed to press the entire sheet pan down. Peel the small piece of parchment off and discard
  10. Return the pan to the oven, bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees, and bake for 10-15 more minutes. The finished bars should be deeply golden, and you should see an almost toffee-like lacy candy forming at the edges. Remove the pan from the oven, and set on a cooling rack for 25 minutes, then cut while the bars are still warm.

Note: You do not want to let the bars fully cool before cutting – the olive oil/maple syrup mixture is a little more fragile than bars made with brown sugar/honey/brown rice syrup. If the bars fully cool, the bars will not cut as easily, and are more likely to crumble a bit.

olive oil granola bars before and after

Olive oil and maple granola bars – Left: before baking. Right: Deep golden brown after baking

Breakfast on-the-go: Egg Muffins


I haven’t done a breakfast post in awhile, so I thought I’d resurrect an oldie but goodie for a weekend post. Two years ago Mark’s eccentric doc told him to lose some weight, and to try the South Beach diet. Being the nutritional nerd that I am, I picked up the book to see what it was all about. We did the first two weeks of torture where you eat no carbs or fruits (not eating fruit was SO hard!), and then transitioned into the more moderate plan. We both lost about 20lbs, but come summer fruit season and biking season, I couldn’t do it anymore. My body needs complex carbs. I eat steel-cut oats for breakfast nearly every morning, love my brown rice, and when I’m biking 22 miles a day, I need some carbs for fuel.

So, South Beach wasn’t for us in the long-term, but it did bring down Mark’s weight and cholesterol quite a bit, and given how much I cook at home, we do pretty well, health-wise, and I don’t worry about my carbs/sugars so much, just watch what I eat on a more global scale. But there are a few recipes from the South Beach era that have stuck with us, and these egg muffins are one of them.

These little muffins are a quick, portable breakfast for busy mornings – whip up a batch on the weekend, and you just need to grab one in the morning, microwave it for 30 seconds to heat them up, and you’ve got a good breakfast in hand. I usually combine one egg muffin with a granola bar or piece of fruit for a full breakfast. You can also make these with all egg whites, or a mix of whites and whole eggs as I tend to do, since I always have leftover egg whites from making ice cream base.

Since these are pretty much like crustless quiches, you can toss whatever meat, cheese, and veggies you have lying around the house into the cups. I’m not going to post the whole recipe here, as Kayln has written the recipe so well, it seems a shame to re-write her instructions.


Egg Muffins
123cal/muffin, 70cal from fat, 7g fat, 5g carb, 1g fiber, 105mg cholesterol
Daily Burn nutritional info for recipe

Full Recipe on Kayln’s Kitchen

My muffins contained: 3 slices bacon, crumbled, 2oz grated cheddar, Sauteed veggies: diced red potatoes, bell pepper, onion, spices.

The muffins keep very well in the fridge for about a week, just tuck them into sandwich bags.

Cinnamon Spiced Quinoa

While riding home on my bike this afternoon, I was thinking about breakfast options. I’m on a break from oatmeal, now that the weather is warm-ish (summer has yet to truly arrive in Chicago). I always have homeade granola bars on hand, but when I’m riding 11 miles in to the office in the morning, but if I eat a granola bar I’m hungry by 10 a.m. I need something just a bit heartier to keep my energy up and creative juices flowing.

My friend Betsey always eats a bowl of quinoa cooked with a bit of ghee in the morning, and so I decided I’d try a slightly sweet quinoa with my favorite oatmeal flavors – cinnamon and vanilla. I cooked the quinoa in my rice cooker as usual, and added a bit of butter to the spices to add just a little richness. The finished quinoa is light, fluffy, and perfectly spiced with a hint of sweetness, and a nutty backnote from the butter. I think I’ll be making many more batches of spiced quinoa for breakfast this summer.

Cinnamon Quinoa
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups quinoa (2 rice cooker cups)
2 T butter, cut into a few pieces
1 T cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
a few grates of fresh nutmeg
3 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
water

Rinse the quinoa well in a fine mesh sieve for a minute or two, then drain. Dump the quinoa in the rice cooker bowl. Add cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, brown sugar and then fill the rice cooker bowl to the 2 cup line. Cook on the “quick steam” mode, if you have one. When the quinoa is done, fluff and let cool on the counter before serving, or stashing in storage containers for the week ahead. The quinoa can be eaten room temperature or warmed.

Blueberry Muffins


We woke up this morning to another cold, wet Spring morning, and I really wanted some pancakes for breakfast, but I only had enough maple syrup left for a batch of granola bars. I needed to come up with an alternate breakfast plan.

I’ve still got a couple bags of blueberries in the freezer, so I checked out my favorite gluten-free bloggers to see if I had all the ingredients I’d need for some muffins, and mostly I did, with a few modifications. As usual, Gluten-Free Girl had a recipe that sounded both delicious and simple enough for my limited patience with gluten-free baking. I am so thankful that there are gluten-free bakers out there like Shauna – I would not have the patience to play with all the gluten-free flours to come up with the right proportions to make tasty baked goods with a soft crumb – they’ve done all the work for me, and I just have to bake them up.

I halved Shauna’s recipe, as we didn’t need 18 muffins (knowing that they’ll all be gone by the end of the day). I used greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt, and corn flour in place of tapioca. I also added cinnamon, a few grates of nutmeg and a healthy glug of vanilla, as I love it so much. The muffins turned out perfectly, a nice crunchy crust on top, and soft and fluffy inside. Topped with a pat of melting butter – it was the perfect breakfast for such a dreary morning.

Blueberry Muffins
Based on a recipe from Gluten-Free Girl
Makes 9 muffins

4 Weight Watchers points per muffin

5 tablespoons unsalted, soft butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup sweet white sorghum flour
1/2 cup white rice flour
1/2 cup corn flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract)
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups plain 0% fat greek yogurt (I use Fage)
1 cup blueberries (frozen are fine)

Preheat the oven to 375.

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients together. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, until just combined. Add the eggs and mix again until just combined.
  3. Add one half of the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add one-third of the yogurt and combine until well mixed. Add one-half of the remaining dry ingredients to the mixture, and combine. Continue this, alternating the yogurt and dry ingredients, until you have mixed both of them in, completely.
  4. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula.
  5. Oil a muffin tin, then sprinkle a little cornstarch on the bottom of each cup. Fill muffin cup two-thirds full.
  6. Bake the muffins for about 35 minutes, or until the tops have browned and started to harden. Test with a toothpick to make sure they’re done all the way through, then cool on a rack for 5 minutes, before turning the muffins out of the pan to serve.

Granola Bars

These granola bars are perhaps my most requested recipe. I always seem to have a granola bar with me when I go out in case I need a good snack, and I bring them along on trips for an easy breakfast that I know will be safely gluten-free. When friends visit and stay with us, the bars seem to disappear quickly, and if you make a batch of these, you’ll know why.

While they are by no means “low calorie,” one bar will sustain you from breakfast to lunch. The bars are sweet, a little salty, and with a mix of nuts and dried fruit in them – you can’t miss. After you taste these, you’ll wonder why anyone buys granola bars – these are economical to make, and best of all – you know what goes in them, and you can customize the flavors to your own taste!

You can use any kind of fruits and nuts in the bars – Trader Joe’s is a great place to stock up on both – they have a wide variety at good prices. My current favorite is a mix of dried cherries, crystallized ginger, macadamia nuts and pecans. I mince the fruit a bit, so you get a bit of fruit in every bite.

Granola bars
Makes about 30-35 bars (approx 3×3″)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

5 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 c honey
1/4 c brown rice syrup (or maple syrup)
4 Tbsp butter
1 T cinnamon
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
approximately 8 oz. Chopped dried fruit (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chunks (optional)

  1. Mix the nuts and oats in a half sheet pan. Toast them in the oven for 10 minutes, then stir, bake for another 10 minutes, then remove from oven.
  2. After you stir the oats halfway through baking, Put the brown sugar, honey, butter, and salt into a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until it all melts and is well incorporated. Add the vanilla, and turn off the heat.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the rimmed baking sheet for the bars by lining it with parchment paper. Cut a second sheet of parchment paper and set the second sheet aside.
  4. Mix everything together in a large bowl. The grains, the liquid, cinnamon and the dried fruit.
  5. Mix everything together very well – you want to make sure the sticky-goo gets all over everything. Now, dump your granola mixture into your prepared and lined baking sheet. Spread out the mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  6. Now add the second sheet on top, and press hard with your hands all over the granola. You want to press it together well so that your bars won’t fall apart when you cut them. The granola usually covers the whole 9×13 baking sheet.
  7. Remove the top sheet of parchment, and pop the bars back in the oven for 5 minutes. Take out of the oven, and sprinkle granola with the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Let them melt for a minute or two, then use a flat spatula to smooth the chocolate into a thin skim over all the granola.
  8. Place sheet pan in the fridge for an hour to cool completely, or let cool on the counter for a couple hours. Then, carefully turn the granola onto a large cutting board, peeling away the rest of the paper.
  9. Use a large chef’s knife and firmly press down with the knife (not sawing), cut your granola into whatever size bars you’d like. I usually get 3 rows of bars across the pan lengthwise, 7-8 bars per row.

I wrap the bars individually in glad press & seal wrap, so that the bars stay fresh, and they’re easy to grab as we run out of the house in the morning. I store mine in the fridge, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

150 calories per bar, 50cal from fat, 6.8g fat, 15g carbs, 2g fiber, 4.1g protein, 210g sodium

Strawberry Rhubarb Oats

It was time to make another batch of steel cut oats for breakfast this evening, and I wanted to mix things up a bit. I happen to have a freezer brimming with beautiful summer fruits – blueberries, strawberries, peaches and rhubarb…a small bit of the summer sunshine to last me through the long, dark winter.

I decided that I’d try the delicious duo of strawberries and rhubarb, and the results are…WOW. I used the same recipe posted here. I added 1 cup of frozen rhubarb at the beginning, and cooked the oats as normal. I added 2 cups of frozen strawberries once the oats were done, and let them defrost and impart their sweetness to the finished oats. I am really looking forward to breakfast tomorrow!

Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

When the weather turns cold, and I have to dig out the sweaters and scarves for the morning commute, I want something warm and comforting for breakfast when I get to work. Enter oatmeal. I used to eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast in my high school years, but like everyone else, it was out of the little Quaker packets. But now that I’m gluten-free, the packets are out – and I’m actually glad, otherwise I may not have ever discovered the magic of steel cut oats.

Steel-cut oats require some prep time, but they cook up so beautifully – toothy and creamy at the same time – almost risotto-like. Cook a pot of these, and you too, may forsake those little brown packets forever. And you can flavor the oats any way you like. I’ve been enjoying lots of apples and cinnamon in my oats, since the local apples are still around. I cook mine in my fancy rice maker that Gluten-Free Girl talked me into buying, which is now one of my very favorite things in my kitchen. It makes beautiful rice, porridge and slow-cooked meals.


Creamy Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

Serves 6 (1 serving – 1 1/4 cups)

273 cal per serving

1 1/3 cups steel cut oats
2 cups apple cider (or unsweetened apple juice, or water)
2 cups almond milk (cow, goat, rice, or almond milks all work fine too)
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cherries, currants, diced apricots, cherries)
1 T cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice, or cake spice)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 T vanilla
2 T maple syrup

If you have a fancy rice maker:

  1. Combine all ingredients above in rice maker bowl. Stir. Set rice maker to the “porridge” setting, and walk away. Stir a couple of times in the 90 minute cook-time, to ensure oats don’t stick to the bowl. When the cycle is done, let the oats rest on the “keep warm cycle” for another 20 minutes, then ladle out into bowls and serve, or tuck away in tupperware containers to save for later.

Stovetop cooking:

  1. Combine all ingredients above in a medium, non-stick pot (minimum 2qt). Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. You want to simmer this at a bare simmer, with the oats offering up the occasional bubbly burble, but nowhere near a full boil. Stir every ten minutes or so, after 30 minutes, the oats should be very close, and you’ll need to taste them to see if they are done to your liking. You may need to add more water if they’re getting dried out. If they are just a bit toothy yet, and still a little saucy, turn off the burner, and let them sit for 20 minutes or so, before spooning out to serve or store.

Note: When re-heating in a microwave, you’ll need to add a bit of water to loosen the warmed oats.