Savory Oat + Walnut Granola Bars

October 14, 2016
Last week I shared this lovely scone recipe with you all. I worked for quite some time on it, and loved the process of tinkering and revisiting its creation entailed. Sometimes that’s how it goes in the kitchen and I love it when it does, but immediately after I shared it with the world I launched into one of those weeks that didn’t allow a single extra moment for playing/experimenting/screwing around with recipes or formulas. (Ah, the sweet balance of life.) I’m sure you have those kinds of kitchen weeks too; the kind where you sometimes have cereal for dinner with a glass of wine because everything ran late and you didn’t get to the store and its what you’ve got and by the way, cereal is GOOD.
Ok – so my meals last week weren’t *quite* so stark. In fact, I was working on this piece with these 10 ingredients so I was focused – instead – on stretching everything in the fridge as far as I could BUT, still, there wasn’t time for tinkering. But there still was a super real need for snacks and treats that could go the distance.
On Friday, a crew of my favorite people and I piled into a car, then onto a plane, then into another car packed with bike equipment, camping equipment and bags on bags of cookies and headed into the Sierras for Grinduro. (The images below are from the trip – it was so beautiful out there!) Once arrived, we proceeded to open beers, set up tents and settle in for a weekend of ripping around the woods on our bikes, catching up with old friends, making new ones, and generally falling in love with this part of the world and this event in particular. Part of my unpacking process, of course, was doling out the snacks I’d hidden away in my suitcase (which lightened the load of my bags by half, I might add.) I brought cookies (duh,) sprinkled with new crop Honeycrisp apples, cinnamon and sugar, and a batch of these Savory Granola Bars inspired by a 101 Cookbooks recipe I found a while back.
Sweet Sierra Singletrack
I’m quite bold about sharing cookies and hand them out to the world with reckless abandon, but I was a bit more shy about sharing these granola bars because not everyone wants something salty and savory on their bicycles. I hadn’t had a chance to test them on a ride myself, but at the top of that absolutely gut-wrenching climb in the last half of the day (before the rowdy, ripping single-track descent to the finish) something savory and easy to eat was exactly what I wanted (in lieu of the potato chips in that bag that surely every rider had plunged their hand into.) I happily munched on them and passed them around, confirming for sure that we have an easy winner, here. The flavors are unexpected but easy to wrap a hungry mind around – on the bike, in-flight, or even cut up in little chunks with crackers and cheese at home. To make matters even better, I had stashed a couple more bars in the fridge and happily ported them as travel snacks for my flight to Chicago last night. Still good. (What an easy sell!)
A proper spot for a snack at Grinduro
So – about these bars. Where a sweet granola bar has chunks of dried fruits, nuts and an occasional cloying sweetness, these bars have spicy kale flakes, olive chunks, toasted walnuts and a saffron honey undertone that’s a little bit toasty, salty and so right. You likely don’t have all of the ingredients in your pantry at this moment…I didn’t either. But, because I’m somewhat obsessed with eating green things when I travel (it makes me feel like I’m doing something virtuous for myself) I picked up a box of kale chips and a bag of brown rice puffed cereal to pull these off, then using an easy recipe for granola bars, I combined the ingredients with other items I had on hand (oats, walnuts, olives, salt, spices.) (Hint: I had enough puffed cereal to make these so, I was really restoring the salty/sweet balance in the world.) What’s an *easy* recipe for granola bars? One that requires you to make a quick caramel of brown rice syrup, honey, or maple to bind together the dry ingredients and add-ins. You needn’t bake them – just let the bars set up on the countertop while you read, pack, sleep, what have you. They’re so easy, keep so well, and are so versatile (I imagine they’d also make tasty, unexpected salty treats to go with cheeses and wine on the right occasion,) I’ll be playing with these quite a bit in the next few busy months. 
The next time around, I’m going to play with bee pollen and pumpkin seeds. Or maybe sweet potato chips. There are lots of ways to improvise here — maybe you have some ideas about how to tweak it too. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll end up in a scenario where I’m working on tinkering with the recipe to make it perfect. But for now, I’m quite happy with something real, and good, and easy.
Soon, a new sandwich cookie recipe here + a dispatch on eating/riding in Chicago. I promise! Enjoy! xo – L 
Savory Oat + Walnut Granola Bars
  1. 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  2. 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  3. 1/2 cup crumbled kale chips
  4. 1/2 cup chopped oil-cured olives
  5. 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  6. 1 1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
  7. 1 cup honey
  8. pinch of saffron (optional)
  9. pinch of dried chile flakes (optional)
  10. scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  1. Makes about 12 nicely sized bars.
  2. Hint: to make these gluten free + vegan, substitute brown rice syrup for the honey, and use gluten-free oats!
  3. Grease a 8 x 8-inch baking pan with the coconut oil. (This makes a nice, thick granola bar. If you like thinner bars, opt for a 9x13-inch pan!) Then, in a large bowl, combine the oats, kale chips, olives, walnuts, and rice cereal together until well incorporated. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey, saffron, chile flakes, and salt. Stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens just a bit, about 4 minutes. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and stir until the syrup is evenly incorporated.
  4. Spread and press the granola bar mixture into the prepared pan and cool to room temperature. Cut into whatever size bars you like, wrap and carry on!

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