A bit cheesy,but I like it - the title comes from a bumper sticker for a local outdoors store. It is March in southern Arizona. This is the time when the rest of the Northern hemisphere is barely starting to thaw, tulips and hyacinths are popping their heads, trees are blooming and people are happy to see the Sun for the first time this year. In Arizona however, this is the time to pull out the sunscreen, hats and shorts, and head for a hike before it gets too hot to be outside.
I had not gone hiking in a loooong time and was wondering what food to bring. Apple slices, cheese, treats for the dog... granola bars? Then it dawned on me that it couldn't be that hard to make some granola bars and stuff them will all the goodness I want. I used Heidi Swanson's recipe to get the basic proportions and here is what I came up with:
Homemade Granola Bars
1 Tsp coconut oil (or butter)
1 C chopped pecans
1 C dried cranberries
2/3 C unsweetened coconut
2 Tbs flax seeds
1 1/2 C rolled oats
1 1/2 C unsweetened crispy rice cereal
1 C brown rice syrup
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 Tsp salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Notes on ingredients: You can substitute the 2 C pecans+cranberries with anything that suits your fancy. Just nuts or just dried fruit will work well too. The coconut is very subtle so don't worry too much about the flavor clash. I used a generic crispy rice cereal, but next time I may try this with the Kashi 7 grain cereal or a crispy brown rice cereal. I used brown rice syrup because I wanted to try it - it has very strong caramel/molasses flavor and the consistency of honey. I bet honey can be substituted for the syrup just fine.
Heat the oven to 350F and toast the nuts and coconut for 5-7 minutes until the coconut is golden brown, stirring a couple of times along the way. Mix the oats, nuts, fruit, and cereal in a big bowl and toss together. In a small pan, combine the brown rice syrup, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Bring to low boil over medium heat, and let it bubble ~4 minutes until it thickens a bit, stirring constantly. Pour the syrup over the dry mixture and stir until thoroughly covered. Spread in a greased (with coconut oil or butter, or covered with parchment paper) pan and press well - a 9x13 pan gives decent thickness bars. Refridgerate for a few hours and then cut into whatever shapes and sizes you like. The brown rice syrup is liquid at room temperature so the bars will start to fall apart if it's too hot, though this doesn't make them less tasty. Wrap them individually in small pieces of parchment paper to avoid them sticking together (sticky wrap doesn't work).
The recipe made so many bars we had enough of two hikes two weekends in a row! The result was ~15 miles of hiking, suntan, lots of wildflowers seen, three tired hikers and one exhausted dog. Amen.