Here's the ingredient list for the original recipe:
2 1/2 cups (230 grams) old fashioned rolled oats 1/2 cup (80 grams) whole almonds, coarsely chopped 1/3 cup (113 grams) honey 1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed light brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 cup (60 grams) dried cranberries, coarsely chopped 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (67 grams) mini chocolate chips
For my first experiment, I simply decreased the amount of sugar and chocolate chips. I would estimate that I used closer to 1/4 c of honey, I didn't pack down the brown sugar and I only used a scant 1/4 choc chips mixed in and didn't sprinkle the extra on top. I also subbed raisins (unsweetened) for the craisins.
The next time I made them, I swapped out unsweetened coconut for the almonds-- same measurements. I toasted it right along with the oats, just like I did with the almonds. I cut out the chocolate chips, subbed dried mixed berries (chopped finely) for the raisins/craisins and kept the same reduced sugar measurements. Deeeelicious!
The NEXT time... I wanted to try using peanut butter to help hold it together so I could reduce the sugar further! ( I am aaaaall about reducing sugar. Annoys the crap outta the kids :) So. I swapped out a cup of popped amaranth cereal (any puffed grain would probably work-- rice, wheat, quinoa) for the almonds this time, but didn't toast it with the oats. Then when I cooked the butter and sweets (1/4 honey, about two or three tablespoons of brown sugar), I added in about a half to 3/4 c of natural peanut butter and proceeded as usual. No fruit this time. Again-- deeeelicious.
I followed all the assembly and cooking directions of the original recipe and here are a few hints I've learned along the way. The main problem that seems to arise with making granola bars is keeping them in that perfect texture zone-- not too crunchy, not falling apart. So far, I've been lucky.
1) Cooking the butter and sugar makes it a little caramel-y which helps hold it together. I let it boil for about... two minutes? Close to that. Maybe soft ball stage on a candy thermometer?
2) They're not kidding about pressing it HARD into the pan. I finally figured out that my hands worked the best. Once I got it more or less pressed down in with a spoon, I laid a sheet of saran wrap over top and used my hand to be sure it was packed as tight as possible.
3) The thinner I spread it, the more crumbly it was. It really needs to be at least 3/4 inches in thickness (when you're done pressing it down in).
4) Peanut butter works great to keep it sticking together. Too bad I don't love peanut butter.
5) You can use rolled oats OR quick oats :) Yay for versatility!
6) I get an even dozen out of the quantities in the original recipe. We eat that up in about two or three days, but once the novelty wears off, they might last longer...
My favorite one was the coconut and fruit version. Next time I make the peanut butter one, I think I'll sprinkle just a smidge of chocolate chips on the top and press them down in. The kids liked all of them :) I can't wait to try more versions!! The basic recipe is so simple, it should be easy to modify here and there. I plan to try sunflower seeds, various nuts, banana chips and maple syrup subbed in the appropriate places in future.
Enjoy! Let me know how you like it :)
PS. If you've never tried popping your own grains, that's another super-easy healthy breakfast option. Lots of tutorials online. We love amaranth-- a protein rich grain with a nutty flavor. The kids eat it with honey and milk.