It was probably almost a year ago now, but it’s still clear in my mind…C & I were getting ready to go on a bike ride through Marin with our good friends, K & G.  We met up in Fairfax so that we could do a nice loop out to Point Reyes, for lunch, and back.  The sun was shining – it promised to be one of those gorgeous days that made you really happy to have plans outside.  Needing a little fuel before we started, C popped into the little coffee shop for a snack and came back with, what can only be described as,  the best granola bar ever.  Now, I realize that’s a bold statement.  It’s also a bold statement about a pretty unassuming snack food.  But still.  It had dried apricots.  And pumpkin seeds.  And cinnamon.  We fought over the last bite and even went back to get another one for the ride home.  It made me wonder why I ever spent money on Luna bars (Sorry Luna – you’re good, but c’mon, homemade?).

Since a weekly trip to Fairfax wasn’t a sensible option, I decided to try to recreate the magic at home.  I started by searching for something similar.  All I could find were some raisin and cardamom bars.  I’m not much of a raisin fan, but it was really the proportions I was after.  Several tries later, meanwhile testing them on willing guinea pigs, here’s where I ended up.  It’s still a bit more crumbly than the original, but I like that I can mix up the fruit and nut mix depending on my mood…and what’s in my kitchen cabinets.

Kristin’s Granola Bars (makes 24 squares)

  • 3 cups oats
  • 2/3 cup dried apricots – coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup pecans – toasted and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup almonds – roasted, unsalted, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. pumpkin seeds – toasted, chopped
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. cardamom
  • 6 Tbsp. butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar – packed
  • 5 Tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 13×9 inch baking dish with a sheet of parchment paper.  If you let the parchment hang over the long edges, you can use it to lift out the mixture after it has baked and cooled.  You can also butter the short sides to prevent sticking where the parchment doesn’t cover.

Combine oats, apricots, nuts and spices in a large bowl.  Stir until the ingredients are well distributed.

In a small saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar and honey over medium heat until bubbly – stirring occasionally.  Pour mixture over oat mixture, stirring well to completely coat the dry ingredients.

Pour into parchment-lined baking dish.  Press firmly with the back of a spatula to compress mixture into pan (this will keep the bars from being so crumbly when you try to cut them).

Bake approximately 20 minutes in 350 degree oven until golden-brown – don’t allow the apricots to burn.  Once mostly cool, you can use the parchment to lift the bars out of the dish to finish cooling.  Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.  Store in closed container in the refrigerator to keep; best served at room temperature.

Feel free to experiment with other nuts, seeds, dried fruits (mmm…dried cranberries?) – as long as you keep to the general proportions of dry to wet ingredients.  I’ve even thrown in a little coconut I had lying around, just for fun.