I love granola bars — throw one in your purse or bag and you’ve got a portable and easy that’s (hopefully) a little more nutritious than a candy bar.

When I saw Ina Garten making Homemade Granola Bars on the Food Network, I knew these were for me. This recipe is GREAT, (I’ve made them 2 or 3 times now already!) you can switch out the fruits and nuts to whatever you like, just keep the proportions in line with the recipe.

These bars are SO good, the flavor is complex and rich from all the different fruits and nuts. The toasted oatmeal and coconut add a nice crispness and texture while the dried fruit and honey give a delicious sweetness that marries well with the nutty earthy flavor of the toasted wheat germ and the slighty salted nuts.

Here is how you make them:

You can find the recipe for Homemade Granola Bars here. Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking dish with parchment paper sprayed with Pam — I used a 9×13″ glass baking dish instead of a 8×12″ dish and it worked out great, just remember to throw in an extra handful of oatmeal and coconut to compensate for the larger size. Set the dish aside.

I decided I wanted to make the “Cadillac of Granola Bars” so I used a terrific dried fruit mixture I found at Costco called Fruit Medley. Fruit Medley comes in a whopping 3 lb. 8 oz. bag for around $10 and includes a delicious combination of: peanuts, almonds, walnuts, apples, kiwi, mango, papaya, strawberries, cherries, raisins and banana chips. I figure one bag will probably make around 3 or 4 batches of granola bars. I roughly cut up some of the larger pieces of fruit and nuts then measured out approximately 2 cups.

Mix oatmeal, nuts (if you are using, I left these out and just used the ones in my mix from Costco) and coconut in a sheet pan and toast for around 10-12 minutes until browned and slightly crispy. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in wheat germ. Go ahead and lower the oven to 300 degrees.

In a small saucepan bring the honey, butter, brown sugar, salt and vanilla (I used vanilla and a little almond extract) to a boil over medium high heat. After it comes to a boil, stir for one minute then pour over the oatmeal mixture.

Add dried fruits and nuts, stirring well to coat everything completely. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread out evenly with a rubber spatula. Press the mixture down firmly into the dish with your fingers. If the mixture is not very firmly pressed down into the pan, the bars will fall apart after baking. (I used a layer of plastic wrap and pressed another baking dish on top to evenly and firmly press the granola mixture into my dish.) Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting.

These bars are not rock hard, they are slightly moist and chewy. Depending on how big you cut them, you will get anywhere from 12-16 bars. I individually wrapped mine in parchment paper and secured them with bakers twine. You can also wrap them in plastic wrap for better portability.

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