So I have this friend. She’s awesome. She taught me how to not go crazy at an entry-level newspaper job. When I was 23, she let me crash on her couch for two weeks when an apartment rental fell through. She helped me change “In Your Eyes” into an ode to cheese fries. She became the subject of a Missed Connection of Craig’s List by simply walking her dogs. I’m jealous to this day.
For our entire friendship, we pretty much celebrated every milestone the way most 20-somethings do. For small things — happy hour. For big things, like when she got engaged — a giant, almost novelty-sized bottle of champagne that we drank while blasting Thriller.
And this summer she had a baby — the most beautiful, squishy, sweet-smelling baby you’ve ever seen. It was a major BFD.
For obvious reasons, I didn’t think novelty-sized booze was the way to go. But while the new parents were spending the next days/months/years of their lives pouring all their love to this little human (and doing so at unnatural hours of the night), I wanted them to know that somebody was thinking of them, too.
So I made food. A lot of food. Food that they could freeze and pop in the oven when that was the extent of dinner planning they could muster. Food that would fill their bellies full of health and nutrients and energy and love. And the pièce de résistance — food that could do all that with only one spare hand.
Granola bars. Homemade ones. Oh all the mommy bloggers would be so proud. They would stand up and cheer. They would shower me with honorary Mom Blogger awards like universities hand out honorary degrees to important people who never paid them tuition.
I took photos. I thought of all the ways I would tell you about the wonderful thing I did. Then, I took the browned beauties out of the oven and realized…I forgot the sugar. I prayed it wouldn’t matter, just make them less sweet. I pretended like these things don’t matter in baking.
Then I tried to cut them and they crumbled. No matter how hard I pressed them into the pan and tried again, they crumbled more and more and more. I stomped. I pouted. I told Jason he could eat the “crappy granola” on yogurt if he wanted because they were positively unpresentable.
The next day, less cranky, I Googled, and thought, and Googled some more and realized that these could be fixed with the help of some honey, a little more butter, and a cupcake pan.
They came out perfectly — still chewy, the blandness of the sugar-free granola replaced by sweetness of the honey.
In fact, I think I liked them more. Next time I’ll remember to add the sugar–but only half–and toss the ingredients with a good dose of honey and butter and press them into adorable individual servings. And I’ll remember that hubris followed by tantrums really don’t have any consequences because these babies still turned out great.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
As you can probably judge by the photos, I made a massive amount of these — quadrupling the original recipe. I have, however, written the recipe here to reflect the more normal amount.
Despite my failure, don’t be afraid: this recipe is flexible. I put peanut butter in mine, but you don’t have to. I used dried apricots, sliced almonds, unsweetened coconut, dried cranberries, and golden raisins. Keep the total amount the same and use whatever you want (even chocolate chips, you know you want to).
1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oat flour (if you don’t have it, you can grind the oats in a food processor, or I think wheat flour would also work here)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups fixins (dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips)
1/3 cup peanut butter/almond butter/other nut butter (or not)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter (or spray with cooking spray) a muffin tin.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, sugar, flour, salt cinnamon, and dried fruit and nuts. In another bowl, thoroughly mix the peanut butter, vanilla, butter, honey and water.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until evenly moistened (it will still be crumbly).
Press the mixture into the individual muffin cups, filling about halfway up. Really press that stuff in there. You can use a spoon to get around the edges. It also helps to put a piece of plastic wrap over the top and you can press the back of it.
Bake about 20 minutes, or until brown around the edges and slightly brown on top. Cool completely in the pan, on a cooling rack.
Once cool, slide a knife around the edges and gently pop them out. If they seem too crumbly, pop the pan in the fridge for about a half hour.
Store wrapped in plastic or in tupperware or just in your belly.