I love cooking, but I love cooking with colleagues even more. That’s where the good ideas come from, and those are the moments where I become a better cook. This past summer I filmed 45 videos for my show, “Pantry Challenge,” on AOL’s KitchenDaily.com. The premise: show busy moms how to create delicious and doable recipes from items they already have in their pantries, solving their unique cooking challenges. One such challenge was what to do with currants. Sure, we could stuff them in a scone or pop them in a pilaf, but I thought it might be fun to make something that most people buy in the box. And so, my chewy, fruity granola bars were born.
The photo basically says it all: they are moist, chewy, and packed with dried fruit. The currants are even better than raisins for granola bars because they are half the size with just as much flavor. How could these granola bars get better? My colleague, friend, and food stylist, Erin Merhar, loved the recipe so much that she added in one of her favorite ingredients (and one of mine, too): peanut butter. The result is an even better granola bar. Thank you, Erin! Here is Erin’s recipe that uses my original recipe as a base:
2 1/2 cups quick rolled oats
1 c. light brown sugar
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 c. chopped peanuts
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 T. maple syrup
1 T. vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with wax or parchment paper. Stir together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, currants, apricots, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl, being sure to break up any clumps of sugar or dried fruit. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, mix the honey, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges turn golden brown.
Remove from the oven and lift the wax or parchment paper from the pan. Let the granola slab cool for 5 minutes before removing the paper and cutting into bars.
Cool completely before eating or wrapping.