Seriously now, let's be honest. When was the last time you finished off a granola bar, Power Bar, Clif Bar, Luna Bar, Läräbar (look here for an awesome Läräbar alternative by Jen at Use Real Butter), Whatever Bar - and thought "Ah, now that was delicious." I'm guessing it's either "never" or "rarely". The truth is, most of the handy-dandy packaged bars you buy in the store whether it be for day on the mountain or a day in the shopping mall (hey - everybody has their own form of strenuous activity, and I've done both!) are bad. Really bad.
Now I'll admit that the Clif Bar guys made a vast improvement over Power Bar - but by the time I'd eaten my fifth one while climbing Mt Rainier, I was ready to chuck it down the nearest crevasse. For my Kilimanjaro trek, the village full of porters made life easy - I filled my pack with a bag of nuts and M&Ms - and they carried the rest (I know, I know! Not exactly hard-core). But still, after 2 weeks, the flavor in a bag of nuts starts to wear on you, and that's when it would be nice to have something else.
I was reading through Good to the Grain and came across Kim Boyce's recipe for Granola Bars. And by the way, if you haven't bought this book yet, you really need to click on that link back there and order yours on Amazon because this book will change the way you think about flours and grains. It really is excellent.
But minor digressions aside...I'd made Pomegranate Molasses a few days ago. Twice actually, because the recipe I used didn't mention temperature or methods for determining when it would be done except "you'll have about 1 cup left" - which is way too vague for me. So digression #2 (sorry - so soon!) - if I'm confusing you like that when I write recipes, please let me know! There is nothing more annoying than spending good time and money on a recipe that sounds and looks great, only to have it flop and you waste ingredients. It's the second time in a row with the same blog: beautiful sounding recipes that don't turn out at all when I try them, leaving me a bit grumpy. Pomegranate Molasses version #1 turned out to be more like teeth-removing caramel than pourable molasses, and I wasn't sure what'd I'd do with it. Until I saw the granola bars recipe and my wheels started turning. This recipe is quite a bit different from Kim Boyce's recipe, I thank her for the inspiration. And you don't need overcooked Pomegranate Molasses to make this work: you just need to boil the syrup for a while to make it nice and sticky, as I'll note in the recipe below.
I won't be blogging a recipe for Pomegranate Molasses because it's been done so many times before, and well (the first recipe I used was an unfortunate exception). Click on the link to get you started, and definitely start to test it for thickness at the 50 minute mark, as mine was ready in between 50-60 minutes the second time around. The best way to test it is to put a few spoons on a plate in the freezer while you cook it. When you think it's getting ready, you'll notice the bubbles change and start to be really small and even, covering the entire surface. Pour a little onto your frozen spoon, tuck it back in the freezer for 1 minute, pull it out. If it's the consistency of molasses, stop. You are ready to go.
You can also find it in the grocery stores and specialty stores that sell food products for recipes from the Mediterranean region. Just make sure, if you make it yourself, you use 100% Pomegranate juice, not the stuff mixed with apple, grape and who knows what else.
So next time you packing your backpack for a trek to the hills, make these. I'm even planning on stashing them in my gym bag from now on! Oh - and a word about Pomegranate Molasses: according to the Livestrong Foundation, you get all the nutrition and anti-oxidant goodness from Pomegranate Molasses as you do from Pomegranate Juice - good stuff like Vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6 stay in there, helping your muscles, cardiovascular system and nervous system. Not to mention, dear mountain climbing friends, it helps maintain the health of red blood cells that carry oxygen to your body. See, I told you these would make you smile! That, and I bet you're not hauling a bottle of POM up the mountain! Just think of this as the counter-effect to all that sun exposure and high-altitude sickness risks.
Pomegranate Blueberry Granola Bars
Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F. Butter a 9" square pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine:
2 cups / 4 dl oatmeal, preferably large flakes
1/2 cup / 1 dl ground flaxseed
1/2 cup / 1 dl hulled raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup / 1 dl roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup / 2 dl dried blueberries
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
In a small pot over medium-high heat, combine:
3/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Bring the mixture to a bowl and bowl, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over the oat mixture. Combine completely so all of the dry mixture is well-coated with all of the wet mixture. It will be very sticky.
Pour the granola mixture into your prepared 9" square pan, and press it down with the back of the spatula so the top is even. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the granola bars to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.
Invert onto a cutting board, and cut the granola bars into 32 pieces.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer up to one month. Or in your backpack for one long hiking weekend or a post-workout snack.