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When I worked full-time in an office, I both looked forward to and dreaded the weeks leading up to the holidays. The excitement came from knowing that soon I’d be on vacation, spending time with my family, far away from the office. The dread came from the fact that, soon, the break room would feature an ever-replenishing array of candies, cookies and treats from co-workers and vendors.
As a girl with an insatiable sweet tooth, this end-of-year extravaganza of sugary morsels was deadly for my long-standing goal to eat reasonably. Every time I walked into the room to fill my water bottle or make a cup of tea, I’d take a cookie or two back to my desk with me. While I never obeyed this solution unfalteringly, I did find that if I kept some better snacking options in my desk drawer, I’d have more success at avoiding the minefield of treats in the kitchen.
If you’re faced with regular access to an equally tempting holiday treat table, here’s my advice: make granola bars. Homemade granola bars are far better than the ones you buy at the store because you know exactly what’s in them, you can customize them to your liking, and you get a heck of a lot more bang for your buck.
Currently, I like the recipe for the Lola Granola Bars that Sunny Anderson recently featured on her show, Home Made in America. Made with 2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats, a bunch of nuts and toasted coconut and held together with a combination of honey and coconut oil, they are a satisfying snack. I cut each batch into 14 bars, which means that each portion has less than 2 teaspoons of honey. Perfect for staving off holiday cravings and for baking up for The Weekender.
Before you start toasting your oats, here are a few things you should know:
— Take care when heating the honey and coconut oil together. It will get very hot, very fast. For the best bar texture, I’ve found that you don’t want to boil the oil beyond 250 degrees F — any hotter and you’ll end up with bars that are too crunchy and not at all chewy.
— When it’s time to press the oats and honey mixture into bars, make sure to do so firmly. An extra sheet of parchment laid over the top will protect your hands from the stickiness and allow you to compact the unbaked bars into a layer that will firm up nicely.
— Make sure to let the granola slab cool completely before you cut it into bars. Wrap the the bars in squares of parchment paper or plastic wrap for storage. If you plan on keeping them for extended periods of time, tuck them into a zip top bag and stash them in the freezer.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.