A genius entrepreneurial idea came to me while I was getting ready yesterday, and like most of my aha-laden, pat-myself-on-the-back-for-coming-up-with-that-gem schemes, it came steeped in suds and conditioner (all my best ideas come to me in the shower for some reason. Perhaps cleanliness spurs creative thought?). So yes, soap + shower = Katrina’s half-baked business plan. Here’s the skinny: Imagine a fro-yo-style business where you can go to build your own granola bars. Hang with me for a sec; this could be awesome. You go in, grab your handy little bowl (emblazoned with an adorably clever logo, of course, maybe something resembling an oat snazzily fashioned into a letter or symbol), then you set to work filling it up with the mix-ins of your choosing: oats, dried fruit, nuts, maybe some healthy guys like wheat germ and chia seeds. So you toss it all in the bowl, then take it up to the front, where the friendly granola master will send it through a quick mix with the company’s magic glue (a maple syrup, peanut/almond butter, butter and molasses combo) and pops it into a high-powered oven for a quick blast that bakes it and sets it in minutes. Voila! You’ve just created your very own custom granola bar. And what’s the name of our kid-friendly, parent-friendly, even mountain-climber-friendly establishment? The Nola Bar. Zing!
So yes, I am proposing the marketing of a build-your-own granola bar business. Were timing and means on my side, I might set to work on this lofty venture right away. Jared, however, the arguably more realistic and business savvy half of our dynamic duo, isn’t feeling the ’nola love quite so strongly. “I couldn’t imagine actually going to a place and paying to make my own granola bar,” he said. Ho hum. You know me, Jared. Always reaching for the stars.
Unfortunately, I won’t be opening The Nola Bar any time soon, so in the meantime I’m taking to experimenting with homemade versions to fill my ’nola needs. A while back I was on a granookie kick (a granola bar/cookie combo I adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe), but this time I was looking for a heartier, chewier granola bar I could pack in a bag or take on a hike. Not that I’m hiking these days, but you get the idea. Anyway, this version is a chewy, chewy winner. Much like my pipe dream of a build-your-own granola locale, this recipe can be altered as your taste buds see fit. Just be sure to keep the mix-ins (fruit, nuts) to glue (peanut butter, syrup, molasses) ratio roughly as is if you’re looking for that chewy consistency.
Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
• 1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
• ½ cup packed brown sugar
• 1/3 cup oat flour (or 1/3 cup oats, finely ground in a food processor or blender)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 ½ cups dried cranberries
• ½ cup wheat germ
• 1 cup cashews (roughly chopped)
• 1/3 cup peanut butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 6 tablespoons melted butter
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan with parchment paper, and let the extra paper go up two opposite sides of the pan. Lightly grease the parchment paper and the exposed pan.
Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts, in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, maple syrup, molasses and water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until the mixture is evenly blended. Spread it in the pan, and press the mixture firmly to ensure it’s molded to the shape of the pan.
Bake the bars for 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are brown and the top gets a bit of color. The center will feel a bit underbaked, but the bars will harden and set once they’re cool.
Cool the bars completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Once they’re cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares or rectangles. If the bars seem too crumbly, stick them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to harden further, and then give the cutting another go. Store the bars in an airtight container. If it’s humid outside, it’s probably best to keep them in the refrigerator.
I’d still contend that The Nola Bar idea has legs. I mean, what’s not to love about granola bars? Granola bars are for everyone. They’re like fuel for life.
Come to think of it, that would make a mighty nice slogan. Dibs!