Crunchy granola bars a sweet snack treat

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Rather Be Cooking

For the last month or so, I’ve been on an oatmeal kick.

I’ve had baked oatmeal filled with fruit for easy suppers, big bowls of hot oatmeal with plump blueberries for breakfast, and granola topping my yogurt and strawberries for snacks.

Granola, especially, has been on my list of cravings. And although I love my favorite commercial brand (Nature Valley Oats ’N Honey), I also like making my own.

Over the weekend, I made a batch of granola, and on Monday I made delicious, nutty granola bars from “The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!” by Ree Drummond.

The cookbook was a Christmas gift from my husband, who would love for me to make some of the recipes inside, I’m sure. We both watch “The Pioneer Woman” on Food Network and often try the recipes she makes on the show.

The granola bars are packed with oats and pecans and sweetened with brown sugar and honey. I’ve made quite a few batches of granola and even granola bars before, but this was the first time I toasted the oats before combining them with the other ingredients to bake. That extra step made the granola bars even crunchier and more flavorful. I will remember that trick for other recipes.

Drummond’s granola bars are delicious for a snack, but they are just as good broken up in pieces as granola. For snack this morning, I had vanilla yogurt topped with chopped strawberries, blueberries and my latest granola. Yum!

The granola won’t be the only recipe I try from Drummond’s latest book. It’s packed with so many recipes I’d like to try from roasted red pepper soup to 20-minute spaghetti carbonara.

I can’t get her recipe for hamburger steaks with mushroom gravy off my mind. The instructions, complete with step-by-step photos, make this recipe and others so easy to follow. Who knows, I might even surprise Reggie and follow Drummond’s detailed images to make fried shrimp.

The chapter on slow cooker recipes made me want to pull out my own slow cooker to make barbecue chicken, glazed ribs and spaghetti sauce. And since I saw the photo for milk chocolate mousse last night, I’ve wanted to make it. And eat it!

If you enjoy Drummond’s show, I’m sure you’d enjoy this book, which not only features recipes but also short essays by Drummond about her family and life on their Oklahoma ranch. The Walmart version of this book has a bonus chapter with five additional recipes.

Granola Bars

This recipe is delicious as a snack bar but is just as good broken up as granola.

6 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)

1/4 cup canola oil

4 tablespoons butter, (1/2 stick) melted, plus more for greasing

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup apple juice

1/4 cup molasses*

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)

1 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small pitcher or bowl, combine the melted butter and oil. In a large bowl, mix together the oats and salt. Pour the butter-oil mixture on top and toss the oats until they are evenly coated.

Spread the oats on 2 rimmed baking sheets (so they aren’t crowded) and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan twice and making sure the oats don’t burn. Set the oats aside to cool for 10 minutes, then put the oats back into the large bowl.

Reduce the heat to 325 degrees, line one of the baking sheets with foil, and coat the foil with cooking spray.

Add the puffed rice cereal, wheat germ, pecans and almonds to the oats and toss to combine. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, apple juice and molasses. Heat the mixture slowly over medium heat, stirring until all is combined. Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the sugar mixture into the oat mixture, stirring as you go. Keep tossing; it will be sticky.

Pour the oat mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Coat your hands with a little cooking spray and press mixture lightly into the pan. (Instead, I used a piece of parchment paper to press down.)

Bake until golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Set aside to let the baked granola cool completely. It might seem soft when it first comes out of the oven, but it will harden and become crispier as it cools. Carefully peel the foil off, then set the slab on a cutting board. Cut the granola into bars. Cut them when they are still warm if that is easier. You can do rectangles, squares or both.

Or you can use a fork to break the granola into clusters.

If desired, dip the cooled granola bars straight into the melted chocolate so that the top is plain and the bottom is chocolate-covered. Set on parchment until set, sticking in the fridge to hasten this along if necessary.

“The Pioneer Woman Cooks”

*Note: I didn’t have molasses, so I used an extra 1/4 cup of honey for a total of 3/4 cup. I also didn’t have wheat germ, so I omitted the ingredient. I used close to 1 cup of chopped pecans, and didn’t use almonds. I haven’t tried adding the chocolate, but I’m sure it would be good.