When I go into people’s homes, I can always tell which of their cookbooks are used regularly and which are more aspirational or someday volumes. The ones that fall into the category of “some day” have unmarked pages and perfect, smooth spines. The books that get used have dog-eared corners, splatters and stains. Particularly beloved books open to favorite recipes all on their own.
It is every cookbook author’s wish that their book becomes one of the spotted, bent and broken books. That means it’s being cooked from and that means we’ve done our job.
I see a lot of cookbooks and it’s a rare book that makes me want to immediately leap up, head to the kitchen, break the spine and start cooking. It happened last fall with the Bi-Rite Cookbook and again recently, with Alana Chernila’s new book, The Homemade Pantry.
If you don’t know Alana, she writes the lovely blog Eating From the Ground Up and lives in Western Massachusetts with her husband and two girls. I first encountered Alana when she introduced herself via email a year or two ago. We finally met in person last fall and it felt more like reconnecting with an old friend than it did an initial introduction.
Once you start reading The Homemade Pantry, you’re going to feel like Alana is one of your old friends too. That’s because her headnotes aren’t just headnotes. They’re full-on essays and they are glorious. Stories of her children, her own childhood and her community weave through the recipes. The book reads like a memoir that just happens to have good things to eat tucked here and there.
The best part of the headnotes is that they demonstrate how personal these recipes are to Alana. They show that every single dish in this book has a reason for being there and is something that she feeds her family. You really can’t ask for a better endorsement than that.
I have long been someone who makes granola at home. There are multiple recipes for granola on this very site and several more in my cookbook (which is now just weeks away!). However, one thing I’ve never been able to get right is a homemade granola bar. I’ve tried so many recipes and they’re either too sweet, too dry or too fragile (and sometimes all three).
When I spotted the recipe for Car Snack 3 (The Nutty Granola Bar), I was tempted. While I don’t spend much time in cars and don’t have any little ones who need snacks, I like having something on hand for mid-afternoons when I can’t focus until I have a little nibble. I was entirely convinced to try them after reading this line, “If you, too, have been searching for the granola bar, try this one.”
Best of all, it was an easy recipe to follow. While the ingredient list is long, it comes together fast. I liked the technique it employs, too. She has you melt the fats (butter, coconut oil and nut butter) together with the sweeteners (sugar and honey).
Once they’re heated through and smooth in consistency, you stir in the rest of the ingredients and press into a parchment-lined baking pan. The parchment means that nothing sticks to the pan and it makes for easy removal once they’ve cooled.
While I knew I could trust Alana to write reliable recipes, I am still blown away by these granola bars. They are, by far, the best homemade granola bars I’ve ever managed to produce in my kitchen. Yes, they are quite calorie dense, but so are any grocery store bar. And since I know exactly what’s in them, I feel no guilt or worry about having a small square as my afternoon snack.
So far, this is the only recipe I’ve tried from the book, but that fact that it worked so well and is so good means that I plan to turn to this book over and over again for my kitchen staples. I have a feeling my copy of the book is going to be totally stained and splattered within weeks and I know that Alana will be entirely pleased by that.
I’m not hosting a giveaway for this book, but Winnie at Healthy Green Kitchen is giving away three copies. If you want a chance at winning, head over to her site and leave a comment to enter. The recipe for Alana’s Nutty Granola Bar is after the jump.
Disclosure: Clarkson Potter gave me a free review copy of The Homemade Pantry. I was not compensated for this post and my opinions remain my own.
Car Snack 3 (The Nutty Granola Bar)
- 1/4 cup 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup 2 ounces coconut oil (or butter)
- 3/4 nut butter
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 1/2 cups 8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups 4.5 ounces raw sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup 1.25 ounces shredded unsweetened coconut
- 3/4 cup 4.5 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup 2 ounces oat bran (or 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats ground to powder in the blender)
- 1/4 cup 1.25 ounces sesame seeds (I subbed in sunflower seeds because I was out of sesame)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving extra paper to pull the finished product out of the pan.
- In a large saucepan, combine the butter, coconut oil, nut butter, brown sugar, vanilla, honey, and 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you have a uniform syrup. Remove from heat. Add the oats, almonds, coconut, chocolate chips, oat bran, sesame seeds, and cinnamon. Stir until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, and press it as firmly into the pan as possible, first using your hands, then using a spatula or wooden spoon to flatten the top. Sprinkle the salt over the top.
- Bake until the edges darken, 35-40 minutes (I found that mine were ready closer to 25 minutes, because ovens vary). The mixture will be soft when you take it out of the oven, but allow it to cool completely before taking it out of the pan and cutting it into 16 squares (I went for 32 squares for better portion control).
Oh my goodness, this is full of win. I love making my own granola, why it never dawned on me to make granola bars, I will never know.
Thank you for introducing me to Alana and her kickass book.
One question – are these crispy or chewy?
They straddle the line between crispy and chewy. They don’t shatter the way the crunchy Nature Valley bars do, but they’re not chewy like super sticky ones you get at the grocery store.
Yep, I’m definitely going to make these. (And Car Snack 3 might just be the best recipe title ever.)
I’ve had my eye on Alana’s book for a while. The pop-tarts on the cover have been haunting me.
This looks like an awesome book.
Hi! These look great! I have been following your blog for a while, but ran into some problems with my Internet Explorer and missed out on quite a bit! I was wondering if there is something I can substitute for the coconut oil?
If you don’t have the coconut oil, you could probably use all butter, though that will make for a richer bar.
Thanks for this lovely highlight of “The Homemade Pantry.” I got intrigued by Alana after reading her piece in the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living, and am dying to check out her book — this makes it a must-do.
I’m definately trying the bars! They look Great! And thanks for the tip … I would love a copy of the book as well so I headed over to Healthy Green Kitchen As well!
I’m looking forward to getting her book and yours. I laughed when you described a well loved cookbook and I agree, mine is my very first ball blue book. I just started canning 3 years ago and fell in love.
Now I have a suggestion of what to give me for Mother’s Day!
Just placed my Amazon order for the book — can’t wait to read through it!
My book arrived quickly and I must tell everyone — I love it. She has a wonderful way of setting the stage and making you feel as though you are standing next to her in the kitchen as she shares her recipes. This is a MUST BUY for your Mother’s Day list!
I’ve become the Goldilocks of granola bars lately, Ina Garten’s (too sweet), Deena Prichep’s of Mostly Foodstuffs (peanuty goodness), Kim Boyce’s (forgot I hate raisins), and others. This might be the “just right” ones. I love the idea that these don’t have big chunks and keep the sugar in check. It’s on the today’s To Do list.
Looks like a great book, too.
Oh awesome review of Alana’s book and I too LOVE her Car Snack 3 bars (w/ food allergy adaptions) the proportions are spot-on. I too have mad many problems getting the ‘bar’ correct.
Gahhhh! Your review makes me even more excited for Alana to come to our food swap on Sunday to speak about the process of making this gorgeous book! Its a DIY tome! Eek!
I can sense many a kitchen experiment in my near future after perusing The Homemade Pantry – love books that spotlight a more natural take on recipes. The more I read on labels, the more I get concerned and this book couldn’t have come at a more perfect time 🙂
Happy to hear about this book. Please count me in for your giveaway. I would love love love to win this book. Thank you.
Darlene, just so you know, I’m not hosting the giveaway for this book. You need to click over to Healthy Green Cooking and leave your comment there. Thanks!
Homemade Pantry– that sounds like just the genre of cookbook I could use now. I’m looking to replace more store-bought items with homemade. Next on my list, starting to make my own soy milk and almond milk. I’ve collected some granola bar recipes, haven’t tried one yet. This one is good because it has no exotic ingredients and doesn’t require peanuts or cashews (which I can’t have).
Super Food cuisine has a great section about making your own non-dairy milks. Probably not worth buying the whole book for a few pages, but maybe you can get it from a library or a friend!
This book looks awesome! Something else to put on my Mother’s Day wish list. If I can wait that long to get one! Thanks for sharing the granola bar recipe. I’m always looking for something new and homemade to try as a snack for the hubs and kiddos. Love your site, too!
Thank you for introducing me to another new great cookbook. I can’t wait to try the bars sense my hubby takes that to work every morning for breakfast. This will be a great way to save some money.
Does it matter what kind of ‘nut butter’ you use? Peanut butter would probably give them an entirely different taste then almond or cashew butter. These sound delicious and I will give them a try! – Great site by the way…. =)
The nut butter is up to you. For me, that’s part of the joy of the recipe, because it means you can use what you have. I used peanut butter because that’s what I had in my kitchen, but might use almond the next time.
Made this the other night–it was indeed The Granola Bar Recipe I have been looking for! The granola actually holds together and stays in bar form.
I hope you will try more recipes from this book and share again.
Those look delicious and I really want that book now..lol Can not wait to see your book published!
This looks really yummy, can’t wait to try it! It’s pretty hard to find coconut oil here in Greece, do you think olive oil might be a good substitute? I saw your previous comment about using all butter, but would like to opt for something a bit lighter. Would olive oil be the right consistency? Many thanks for the great recipe.
I’d worry that olive oil would make them too greasy. Part of coconut oil’s charm is that it’s quite light. I’d actually opt for applesauce or something like that in place of the coconut oil.
Taste was spot on however, silly me forgot to put the honey in the pot. I think these would have held together perfectly had I remembered that ingredient. Also, I used all butter and didn’t find any problems. Obviously, this affects the nutrition but I don’t think it affects the consistency/final product.
Love, love, love this book!!! Thanks for reviewing it. After reading your post, I went right out to the bookstore (50 miles away) to peruse it and I bought it, of course. I can’t say enough good things about it. Well-written anecdotes, great photos, and the recipes are wonderful. We’re vegetarian, and there are plenty of great recipes for us.
Made these bars, forgot the nut butter (duh!) and they were still really good!
I just made these, easy to put together. They are now cooling filling the house with the scent of chocolate and honey…can’t wait to try them. I made these so that my daughters and hubby will have something for breakfast on the run. Should taste great with our raw milk.
I made these last night following the recipe exactly, they are by far the most delicious granola bars I have made so far, one problem though: I baked until browned around the edges (28 minutes) but they still came out pretty soft. They were quite thick (used a 9×13) so I was wondering if next time I should press them out into a jelly roll sized sheet pan? I visualized a granola bar that held its shape, mine are pretty soft and crumbly. If at first you don’t succeed…
I flipped through this at Barnes and Noble and was debating buying it. Now I am definitely going to, thanks!