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


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


  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

DIY Energy Bars: Dashew Bars

Most of us who are gluten-free struggle with eating on-the-go. Living an active, busy lifestyle that is also gluten-free requires a lot of planning ahead, so that you don’t get stuck somewhere with an empty stomach and nowhere safe to eat. I usually have a handful of nuts or a homeade granola bar stashed in my bag wherever I go, and any of our family and friends could tell you that when I stay at their homes, I often fill the fridge with my own food upon arrival. My reactions to gluten are getting much more severe as I get older, so I try to minimize gluten risk as much as possible when outside my home. It’s a good thing cooking is one of my passions, as life wouldn’t be nearly as much fun or flavorful otherwise.

I’ve recently begun to follow Bernice Mast (@gfveg) on Twitter (you can follow me there as well @jennsutherland). Bernice is the Gluten Free Examiner, and posts lots of good resources and recipes for GF folks. A couple days ago she reposted a favorite snack item to twitter – her “Dashew” bars. They’re a simple energy bar with dates and cashews, and WOW – are they good!

I’ve added coconut and cinnamon to Bernice’s recipe, and the bars are going over very well in our house. Mark said that they tasted like the “tank tracks” Oatmeal Cookie Bars in the Army MREs (meals ready to eat). Apparently, those were a sought after item, and probably better than they sound. But these two-bite little wonders are extremely tasty, and will give you a little energy boost when you need it. Because these are calorie dense little buggers, cut them small, and wrap them individually in waxed paper, so you will be less tempted to eat them all in one afternoon. I actually cut them about a third smaller than in the photo above, and the finished bars are about 2×2″, and 1/3″ thick. Give these simple bars a try next time you need a portable snack.

Dashew Snack Bars
Serves 12
97 cal, 5.3g fat, 9g sugars, 2,1g protein, 12g carb

4 oz cashews, unsalted, raw
4oz dates, pitted
1/2 cup dried coconut, unsweetened
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Add the coconut to the sheet pan, and toast cashews and coconut for another 5-8 minutes, until both coconut and cashews are a toasty golden color. Take them out of the oven, and then set them aside on a cooling rack to cool.
  2. When the cashews and coconut have cooled, add all ingredients to your food processor. Process until the mixture is ground fairly fine, and begins to ball up into a thick paste. Line a small baking sheet with parchment. Turn the paste onto the parchment paper, and press the bars together into about 1/3″ thick sheet. Fold the parchment overtop the bars, and press very firmly to evenly distribute the mixture to form nice, uniform bars.
  3. Stash the sheet pan in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes, then remove and cut into 2″ blocks. Wrap in waxed paper and store in the fridge for an easy to grab snack.

My New Favorite Lunch: White Bean Dip

Saturday evening we had some of my very favorite feminists and their guys over for a BBQ. The weather wasn’t very cooperative, as it was yet another cold, wet Chicago day, but when this group gathers, the food is always amazing. We love to eat, and we do it well. I really meant to take a picture of the spread, but after a ‘rita or two – all thoughts of picture taking was quickly forgotten.

I made a spicy quinoa salad, horchata ice cream, a pitcher of strawberry margaritas and Mark grilled up the always excellent Garlic Sausages from Romanian Kosher butcher. Lucy brought some very fresh ceviche that I really wish I had eaten more of. Melissa brought homeade mango habenero salsa, chips, and strawberry shortcake – and was kind enough to make some GF shortcakes just for me! Kris brought some veggie pasta salad and a massive taco salad. Becca, the now certified pastry chef (if you live in Austin – hire her!), brought some cucumber infused rum and kept the party flowing with mojitos. Corrine made sure that we weren’t completely unhealthy and plied us with fresh fruits. And Stevie brought her famed avocado cheesecake and some awesome white bean dip – think herby hummus with white beans instead of chick peas.

I LOVE hummus….for years, it’s been the staple that I’ve brought to every party. I make a mean hummus – flavored with fresh basil, or sundried tomato, roasted red pepper – it’s endlessly variable, and good with chips or veg. Tasting this new, garlicky variation on the theme – I knew I had to whip up a batch ASAP. I was also lucky enough to have some Rancho Gordo dried runner cannelini beans in the pantry, which are incredibly creamy. I cooked them up with some veg, garlic and rosemary to give them an extra boost of flavor. Once the beans are cooked, the rest is a snap. This dip is probably my new favorite lunch with a few tortilla chips and handful of veggies.

White Bean dip
Makes about 3 cups

Cooking the beans:
1/2 lb dried runner cannelini beans (love the ones from Rancho Gordo)
1 carrot, cut in a few large pieces
1/2 onion, peeled, whole
2 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
2 stalks celery, cut in half
2 bay leaves
2 springs rosemary
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Soak the beans for a few hours or overnight, covered by at least 3″ of water. When you’re ready to cook the beans, pour the beans and water into a pot, and add enough water for them to be covered by 3″ of water. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, rosemary, celery and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil. Stir, and reduce heat to low and simmer until nearly done, about an hour to an hour and a half. When they’re done, add the salt, remove from heat, and let them sit in the pot for 30 minutes, so they absorb some of the salt.

1/4-1/2 cup bean cooking liquid
1/4 cup olive oil
3 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup minced chives and their blossoms
salt & pepper
juice of one lemon
zest from lemon
1 T capers
2 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Set a small pan over low heat, and warm the olive oil, garlic and rosemary gently – do not let it boil. Heat the oil for 5-10 minutes, until the garlic begins to soften. Discard the rosemary sprigs and set aside the oil and garlic.
  2. To make the dip, toss the garlic and capers into the food processor and whiz until everything is minced. Scrape down the bowl, and then pour in the beans, lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, and 1/4 cup of the reserved bean cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Scrape down the bowl, then blitz again, and slowly pour in the olive oil and puree until the oil is incorporated. Taste, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Pour dip into a storage container and then stir in the minced chives. Serve with crackers, chips, pita, on toast or chopped veggies.

Other People’s Blogs: Lemon Kissed Macaroons

Tastespotting is a dangerous site to browse when you’re hungry – especially if you’re in the mood for something sweet. I saw the recipe for these babies last night, and knew I had to make them. I love coconut, and use it pretty often in my granola bars – I love the flavor of toasted coconut. I’d never made macaroons before, and I had some coconut in the pantry, so I figured I’d give them a whirl. I only made a half-batch according to the recipe on Comfy Belly, since I only had three eggs, and about a cup and a half of coconut. I did put the zest of an entire Meyer Lemon into the batter – I love lemon, especially Meyer lemons.

I made the macaroons on the large-ish side, so I only got 9 macaroons out of the batter, but the good news is, Mark is out of town for the weekend, so these light, fluffy macaroons are all mine!

Oh, and since I had 3 egg yolks leftover, I just had to make some ice cream base, so look for that recipe in a couple days!

Snacktime: Cinnamon Spiced Popcorn

Do you love popcorn like I do? I’m not talking about that nasty stuff that comes in a chemical brick that you put in the microwave and then burn, making your co-workers smell it in the office all afternoon. Real popcorn does not cause a smelly fug that hangs in the air.

Popcorn, for me, is a little like breakfast foods – I could eat it pretty much anytime. Buttered, plain, with truffle salt, chili oil & salt, olive oil & parmesan, pesto, basil oil and garlic…there’s a million ways to eat popcorn – its the perfect starchy base for your favorite flavors…and it’s better for you than potato chips!

I was craving a sweet/salty snack this evening, and this popcorn and takes the idea of Kettle Corn to a whole new level with cinnamon and nutmeg. Sometimes I think the best thing about being a grown-up is that I can have whatever I want, whenever I want…and this is what I had for dinner tonight. My mom taught me this recipe, and I’m not sure where she got it, but I know she makes it with her special ed students, and that they love it too.

In our winter farm shares, we received adorable little miniature ears of popping corn – I wish I had taken pictures of the colorful little ears. I decided to take on the considerable task of taking all the corn off the cobs this afternoon, and that was a finger-numbing experience! Those little kernels are sharp, and it takes awhile to rub all of them off the cob. Anyway, after all that work, I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labor. (And my thumb is still sore, 5 hours later)

Cinnamon Spiced Popcorn
Serves 2 (3 cups popped corn per serving)

1/3 cup unpopped popping corn
1 Tb butter
1 Tb brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt

Pop the corn in an air popper. Meanwhile combine the other ingredients in a small bowl and melt in the microwave. Stir, so that everything blends together, and the sugar and salt mostly melt. Pour the melted mixture over popped corn, and stir with a spatula, making sure to get some seasoning on most of the kernels. Enjoy!

Now, how do you like your popcorn? Share your favorite flavors in the comments below!

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

Snacks Reprised: Honey Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Can’t get enough of the spicy sweet almonds with garam masala? While you’re roasting up pumpkins for pie this week (or other seeded squash), why not give the seeds a rinse, and toast them up and rev them up with a little spice?!

Honey Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rinsed and dried seeds on a sheet pan, and pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until starting to turn golden. Remove sheet pan, drizzle with a bit of honey, stir, then sprinkle with garam masala and salt. Return seeds to the oven for another 5 minutes, then cool. Store in an airtight container.

Party Tricks: Hayley’s Honey Spiced Almonds

I cannot take credit for this delicious snack, but it has been a party staple ever since our dear friend Hayley (who happens to be a professional pastry chef), brought these to our home several years ago. We have been hooked ever since. And these are so easy to make, you must give them a try. They could be considered a distant cousin to that gaggingly-sweet mall-staple – the cinnamon-sugar almond, but these are definitely healthier, as well as having that lovely balance of spicy-salty-sweet.

Hayley’s Honey Spiced Almonds
6 servings
4 Weight Watchers Points (approx. 1/4 cup)

1 1/2 cups raw almonds
1 T honey
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Place almonds on a cookie sheet, and pop in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Pull almonds from the oven, and drizzle honey over all of the almonds – stir, ensuring that all of the almonds get a thin skim of honey. Sprinkle the salt and garam masala over the almonds and stir thoroughly to ensure that all of the almonds get some spice on them. Put almonds back in the oven, and bake for another 6 minutes. Remove, and let cool. The honey coating will harden once cool. Store cool almonds in an air-tight container.