September 11, 2017
This is about...
Back to School GRANOLA BARS---YUM!!
        Even though PREPPING FOR A NEW SCHOOL YEAR IS PAST HISTORY FOR ME AND MY SON, I still get excited when this time of year rolls along. Some people look at New Year's Day as a chance to start over or to try something new. But for me, it’s the first Thursday after Labor Day when school re-opens up here. I always look forward to that subtle shift in the air, where everything gets a little crisper, and clearer, after a hazy summer. And wouldn’t you know it, I still get the urge to run to Staples and buy a few colorful notebooks, sparkly pens, post-it notes and paper. I, for one, loved school.
        Now SCHOOL MEANS ENFORCING SOME EXTRA STRUCTURE INTO ANY FAMILY’S ROUTINE. And ours was probably worse than most. Preschool was great. Zack did the second session that started at 12:30 pm. That meant that he could eat breakfast at 11:30am. Perfect!
        But once full days started, it was another story. Being a family of late night musicians, DRAGGING OURSELVES OUT OF BED AT THE UNGODLY HOUR OF 7 AM WAS BRUTAL. None of us ever adjusted. Hearing the rooster crow and watching the sunrise wasn’t, and still isn’t in Zack’s or my DNA. I’m alittle ashamed to admit that even though I was up, I wasn’t really awake until at least 11.
        Stumbling around in my “pre-dawn” stupor, there was always a school lunch that had to be made. Zack loved grilled cheese sandwiches—buttered sprouted grain bread, lightly spread with spicy mustard and melty soy cheese, yes soy cheese—and of course, these had to made that morning. You can’t really get away with an icy, cold grilled cheese made the night before. But I was willing to stand over the stove, because it was one of the few healthy things I could still get him to eat after he entered kindergarten. FROM THAT FIRST DAY, when I tearfully watched him walk through those hallowed doors, I SOON FOUND HIM AMBUSHED BY HIS NEW FRIENDS EATING lots of white bread sandwiches with PRESERVATIVE LOADED BOLOGNA, SODA AND CANDY. How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they’ve eaten all that salty, greasy, sweet stuff?
        So, THESE HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS were born out of my quest to send him to school with something healthy that COULD COMPETE WITH THOSE JUNK-FOOD PREPACKAGED ONES. The perfect lunchbox treat, they’re made with whole oats, seeds and nuts, as well as unsweetened coconut and an “undetectable” addition of super healthy golden flax seeds. The twist, that makes these so yummy, is an unusual mixture of honey and coconut oil. It’s cooked together until copper colored, stirred into all the dry ingredients, and then baked.
        DON’T HESITATE TO SWITCH UP THE DRIED FRUITS AND NUTS. Variety is the spice of life. And because you’re making them from scratch, you can control their sweetness and, of course, there’s no preservatives anywhere to be found here. THEY’RE EVEN GLUTEN-FREE—as long as you buy gluten-free oats. KEEP IN MIND THAT THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT DOES NOT APPLY HERE----and what they don’t know won’t hurt them and may even be good for them!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Keep an eye on the dry ingredients at the end of the baking time so they don’t get too brown.
2. Coat the measuring cup for the honey with cooking spray or oil will keep it from sticking.
3. This is an excellent granola too! Instead of pressing it into the pan, crumble it evenly and bake for the same 10 minutes.
4. Stirring ¼ cup peanut butter to the boiled honey is a fun addition.

Back to School GRANOLA BARS
(adapted from Mary Molina’s Lola’s Bars)

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup golden flax seed meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup dried cranberries, or chopped pitted dates
½ cup light flavored honey, like clover or wildflower
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the granola bars:
        Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 11” x 7” baking pan ( I used a Pyrex glass dish) with oil or cooking spray, line with parchment and spray again with oil.
        In a medium size bowl add the seeds, nuts, coconut, flax meal, cinnamon and salt. Toss to combine. Evenly spread the mixture onto a dry rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Put back in the medium size bowl with the dried cranberries.
        In a small size heavy saucepan, combine the honey, coconut oil and vanilla. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, and cook until the honey becomes a copper color, about 7-8 minutes. Make sure to watch at the end of the cooking time.
        While the honey is cooking, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the hot honey mixture into the center of the bowl and stir to completely coat. Be careful! The mixture will be very hot!
        Evenly spread the mixture into the pan and press firmly. Bake for 8-10 minutes. It will still be a little sticky in the middle. Cool for 20 minutes, no longer, turn out onto a cutting board, remove parchment paper and cut into bars with a sharp knife. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 16 bars (3” x 1 “).      YUM!
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