My idea of romance involves chocolate, pink peonies or dahlias, and grilled cheese or pizza or fondue for dinner (can you tell I like cheese?) - best enjoyed while wearing my most worn in sweat pants and an oversized cashmere sweater (and dinner will be followed by the exchanging of homemade cards because homemade involves effort and is far cuter). I've never been one to obsess over the typical tokens of affection that seem to plague all stores around Valentines Day (except for the je t'aime necklace I spotted on the Barney's website. That stole my heart). Sure I want chocolate and flowers (but not Russell Stover chocolates or red roses) but I never want to be taken out for an evening of overly expensive price-fixe dinner. Take me out any other night, on Valentine's Day I want to stay home and snuggle. I've also never felt the need to exchange overly expensive gifts (unless of course you want to buy me the je t'aime necklace or the arrow necklace and in that case call me and we'll talk), I much prefer small tokens of affection. Things that remind the other person that you know them so well. I like giving presents because I like showing people how much I love them. This is how I found myself making my better half a box of homemade granola bars as a Valentine's Day token of affection. He loves snacks and a homemade version of his favorite snack seemed to me the perfect gift. These are simple but so much better then anything you can buy in the store. (Except for the granola bars at Bouchon Bakery in Rockefeller Center but that's a story for another time.) These can also be customized any number of ways making them the perfect gift for the ones you love.
Homemade Granola Bars
Recipe adapted (slightly) from Ina Garten
This is the kind of recipe that can be adapted to whatever flavors you prefer. Want pecans instead of almonds? Sounds good to me! Prefer dried cherries to dried cranberries? Swap them! You can even use chocolate chips in place of some of the fruit. As long as you keep the proportions the same, you can make any variation. My next plan is to use half pistachios and half almonds and lots of dried cherries to try and mimic my favorite granola.
Makes 12-16 Bars
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup thinly sliced or chopped almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, loosely packed
½ cup toasted wheat germ (I actually used pumpkin seeds which worked perfectly!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup chopped dried apricots
¾ cup dried cranberries
Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 by 12 inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ or pumpkin seeds.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and slat in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the apricots and cranberries and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers (or use a piece of parchment) and lightly press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature. Can be stored in an air tight container for up to a week.