We are not the most devoted of campers, we pretty much stick to basic car camping in campsites where there are actual bathrooms. We pick campsites for scenic views and proximity to day hikes or breweries, depending on the situation. There is a little kid in my life and these things make camping easier. We pack coolers of ingredients for full-on fancy camping meals and a set of bocce balls for afternoon entertainment. Once we get out there, camping is a pretty carefree way to spend a weekend. There is little to do besides cook up the food we’ve brought along and relax. In the evening, we build a fire and sit around it. Sometimes we play card games or watch for stars in that dark sky.
This fall we’ve been doing a lot of camping. Maybe it is an unconscious attempt to draw out the season as the cooler weather and shorter days set it. On every trip, I’ve been returning to the same recipe for granola bars. They are tasty and portable. I’ve packed up these bars for early morning kayak paddles, long rides in the car and hikes into the hills. And on camping trips, they are the perfect snack to tide me over between an early morning wake up and actually being alert enough to start cooking breakfast at the campsite. We tumble out of the tent, start heating up water for coffee, pull out the pan of granola bars and everyone is happy.
I’ve been working to keep these bars from getting too crumbly and the best advice I have is to chop things up – the nuts, the cherries. The smaller pieces seem to stick together that much better. Of course, you can help matters out by storing them carefully. I’ve found returning them to their pan or some other container helps them keep their shape. And since these bars have become a breakfast staple, I’ve been using them to clean out the pantry, substituting different nuts, various chocolates and even some peanut butter chips I found, along with any kind of coconut flakes I can find lurking in the cupboard. Another breakfast note – I don’t like too much sweetness early in the morning, so I’ve been lighthanded with the sugar, even going with a little less than what I have listed here on a batch where I used up the rest of my sweetened coconut.
GOOD MORNING GRANOLA BARS
1 ½ cups (160 grams) quick-cooking oats
⅓ cup (35 grams) oat flour, or quick-cooking oats pulsed in a food processor
⅓ cup (65 grams) to ½ cup (100 grams) sugar (see above)
1 cup (110 grams) raw walnuts, chopped into rough pieces
½ cup (25 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup (85 grams) chocolate chips or chopped chocolate of similar size
¼ cup (40 grams) dried cherries, halved
½ tsp. fine salt
1/3 cup (85 grams) peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 Tbsp. (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
6 Tbsp. (120 grams) honey
1 Tbsp. water
Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan with a little butter or baking spray. Line pan with parchment paper so it covers the bottom and two sides of the pan with a little overhang. Lightly grease the parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, sugar, nuts, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, dried cherries and salt.
In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, honey and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and give everything a good stir to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a prepared pan and press the mixture into the pan. A spatula works pretty well, but a damp hand or piece of plastic wrap will help as well.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bars are golden all over with some browning on the edges. Don’t be surprised to find the bars are still a little soft to the touch, they will firm up as they cool.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely or even overnight. When cool, run a knife along the around the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into bars.
To store, place bars in an airtight container. Or do like I did and slide the bars and the parchment paper back into the pan for storage. I think it’s the best way to keep them from crumbling.