Last week in my public health nutrition course we learned about food wastage and it made me really think about appreciating food. There is a giant gap in the food production and consumption cycle that leads to millions of tonnes of food being wasted every year, actually every day! People are going hungry in many parts of the world, including Canada, and yet we waste so much food globally.
The amount of time spent in food preparation for the average person has been declining steadily since the 1950s, and more people now than ever are eating out, buying pre-packaged food, and purchasing ready-made meals. I love to cook and bake food (and not just because that means I get to eat food) because it tastes a million times better when it is homemade compared to when it is bought. It really hit me when I was grocery shopping for the household while my parents were away and noticing some things that we normally buy that we could totally make by hand. Things like hummus, salads, and granola bars. It is really convenient to buy giant containers of hummus at Costco, but it is also super easy to make it at home. I have only made granola bars twice before, and I don’t remember them being mind-blowing, so yesterday felt like a new experience – I made pumpkin seed and dried cranberry granola bars!
I knew that the base of most simple-low-ingredient granola bars was dates, so I stopped by the grocery store on my way home from meeting a friend for coffee yesterday and picked up some dates. Turns out I’m really awkward at picking up dates at the grocery store…
… so the dried fruit kind of dates will have to do. I had absolutely no idea what the difference was between all of the different versions of dates. Medjool? Deglet Nour? How about the cheapest bag of pitted dates I can find. Working with THIS recipe, I kind of made it up as I went. First, I added a packed cup of dates to my food processor.
I pulsed these bad boys until they appeared crumbly and almost like a dough. It took between one and two minutes to reach this point. During that time I tried eating a date by itself and was surprised at how good they were. Super sweet, less sticky than a prune, and quite tasty. “Perfect running fuel!” I thought.
I added 1 cup of raw almonds to the dates and processed them until they were chopped and incorporated into the date mixture. I left a few bigger bits of almond and didn’t grind them completely. I then added 1 1/2 cups of quick oats, and pulsed the mixture a couple of times to incorporate them. In a microwave-safe measure cup, I heated 1/3 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of peanut butter. The original recipe instructs you to heat them in a saucepan on the stove but I was lazy. It only took about 30 seconds in the microwave. I added the hot honey/pb to the date mixture.
Process the mixture until everything is mixed and it has formed almost a dough. It will be sticky, but should hold itself together fairly well. At this point, I scooped the mixture out of the food processor, into a medium mixing bowl. I added 1/4 cup of salted roasted pumpkin seeds, and 1/4 cup of dried cranberries. Stir to incorporate. After lining an 8′ X 8′ baking pan with saran wrap, I pressed the granola bar mixture into the pan.
Freezing the granola bars for 15 minutes really helped set everything. Once I pulled them out of the freezer, I took the saran wrap out of the pan (really easily!) and set the bars on a cutting board.
I chopped the square of granola into 10 bars. You could essentially make them any size you wanted, bigger for more of a “meal” or smaller to add to a bowl of yogurt or a salad. They are the perfect snack-size when cut into 10 pieces, similar to larabars or Clif bar size. I sealed up each bar in a snack-sized Ziploc bag.
My brother takes a granola bar every day in his lunch (hence why we buy Clif bars and granola bars so often), so he is clearly an experienced granola bar connoisseur. He told me they were really really good! I had one with my salad and carrot sticks at lunch and they were the perfect amount of crunchy and sweet with the almonds and dates. I had pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries on hand but you could really add anything to the basic date/oat/almond/honey/nut butter mix.
Homemade food is just better. I think when I make things from scratch I just appreciate them more. Granola bars taste better when you think of the work that went into them. Soup is better when you have seen your mom chop up fresh veggies and simmer the pot all day on the stove. Bread is better when you have smelt it baking throughout the house. As a society, we have lost touch a little bit with where our food comes from, what it means to our bodies, and how amazing it truly is. Simple things like learning how to make jam or whipping up a jar of salad dressing take us back to a time of appreciation for food… and it’s pretty fabulous 🙂
If you were making a batch of granola bars right now, what would you put in them?
Do you have a homemade favourite? Cookies, bread, soup, pie… something that takes a little extra work but is totally worth it?