I am bad at breakfast. While it may be easy to assume that I, of the let’s-cook-dinner-every-single-night! ilk, eat a decent breakfast every morning, that would be incorrect. (Especially if by “incorrect”, you mean “resoundingly, totally not true”.) There are a lot of factors that culminate in me messing up breakfast, but the main one is this: I take a train into the city at an hour that makes most people cringe, and I’m just not that hungry when it is kind of-sort of STILL NIGHTTIME.
So, I walk out the door without having eaten anything: the first in a chain of events that leads to inevitable panic. I grab a cup of office coffee (why?!) when I arrive. Around 8 AM, I start feeling mildly hungry, but reluctant to look up from what I’m doing. Between 9 AM and 11 AM, I start showing symptoms of what I have dubbed “Angry Coffee Belly,” a jittery, growly, empty-stomach, high-caffeine and low blood-sugar fueled syndrome that leaves me contemplating stealing greek yogurt from the office fridge*. If I wait too long, it’s too close to lunch to eat anything, and I suffer through the morning, annoyed at myself.
It’s horrible, right? I know lots of people turn to convenience foods, energy bars and such, but the truth is that I don’t really enjoy those things. The food I like to eat, the food that makes me feel good and full and happy, generally requires at least a few steps beyond opening wrappers. (This part can easily lead to a discussion of “Why don’t office spaces have ways to cook beyond microwaves so I can take 6 minutes and fry an egg?”, but that’s for another day.)
Ben is the opposite of me: he can shovel something down moments after he stumbles out of bed. So I made these granola bars more for him than for me. They are really good, portable, and keep well. I tried bringing a few of them in my bag to work, but they don’t really stick with me, and I’m more of a savory breakfast person. So while the recipe is a total keeper (afternoon snacks!), it’s not the filling-yet-practical-enough-to-be-eaten-at-one’s-desk solution I was looking for. Any help?
* For the record, I have never done this. After the ethics debate that ignited when I confessed to ripping out recipes from waiting room magazines, I realize that you all stand on higher moral ground than me…but I still have SOME semblance of conscience :)
Some points of possible interest—
- The Yellow House has been nominated for a Saveur Best Food Blog Award in the “Best Writing” category! I am pleased just to be nominated–as you can imagine, I don’t really keep this side gig to win awards— so no pressure to vote for me, but I thought I’d put it here in case you felt so moved: Vote here! (You have to create an account to vote, annoyingly. Sorry.)
- Williams-Sonoma has a fun Q&A with me up on their site.
Chewy granola bars
This recipe has been widely adapted from the King Arthur Flour website.
There are two things I like about this recipe. First, I did pretty much everything I could have to mess it up: my oats were old-fashioned rather than quick cooking; I didn’t use any corn syrup; I totally left out the ingredient they call “sticky bun sugar”—the granola bars were still excellent. Second, I love the “add 10 ounces of any dried fruits, nuts, or seeds” guidance: just mix your dry ingredients, transfer the mixing bowl to a kitchen scale, zero it out, and then add nuts or dried fruits until the scale shows 10 ounces. Brilliant for cleaning out the pantry. I used chopped dried figs, chopped pecans, and flax seeds.
Lastly, dried figs are quite sweet. If you’re using a less sweet or more tart dried fruit, something like goji berries, you may want to taste the unbaked mixture for sweetness and add more accordingly.
- 1 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup oat flour (you can just pulse 1/3 cup oats in a food processor until it’s finely ground)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
- 2 to 3 cups (about 10 ounces) dried fruits, seeds, and nuts, roughly chopped or quickly pulsed in the food processor if in large pieces
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup liquid sweetener such as honey, maple syrup or corn syrup (or any mixture of them)
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with sides.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, sugar, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, and dried fruits/nuts. (Since this is about 10 ounces total, you can just set your bowl on a kitchen scale, zero it out, and add whichever dried fruits, seeds, and nuts you want until it reaches 10 ounces total.)
- In another bowl, whisk together the vanilla extract, melted butter, liquid sweeteners, and water.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the solid. Stir gently until the dry mixture is evenly coated with the wet. It will be crumbly, rather than a batter.
- Press the mixture evenly into the greased baking pan, using the back of a wooden spoon or clean hands if necessary.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are browned and the top is somewhere between golden and dark golden. Allow the bars to cool entirely in the pan.
- Using a sharp knife, cut into squares or bars. Store in a plastic zip bag or wrapped individually in plastic cling wrap. They will stay chewy at least a week.
- These bars freeze beautifully in a single layer in a gallon freezer bag. Just defrost and eat.