A date, a peanut, and an oat sit down and order a drink. The bartender says, “what do you think this is, a granola bar? “
Recently I read Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food by Rachel Herz. You can imagine why the title piqued my interest. I am obsessed with cooking, photographing, and writing about food.
Herz explains why sweeter (nicer) people prefer sweet foods, and people with a bit of attitude prefer bitter or sour foods. T.V or other distractions makes us eat more than if we were to eat doing nothing else. Aromas are the most important element of eating, even over our taste buds! Meditation and working out are the best ways to establish more willpower if you have trouble limiting your number of trips to the buffet table.
In a surprise to no one, in a book all about our eating habits, there is a chapter all about comfort food. How can you talk about humans’ relationship to food without diving into the reasons we are so attached to eating? According to Herz, comfort foods cause an increased release of endorphins, so they are a legal version of heroin. Endorphin release is also related to comfort and pleasure that we associate with past experiences. When we eat comfort food it’s an intimate reminder of positive emotions associated with certain foods.
Granola bars are one of my (many) comfort foods. I remember eating quaker oats chocolate chip granola bars after school as a kid. These are a hybrid of a cookie and a granola bar. They feel somewhat virtuous due to a combination of oats, nuts and/or seeds, and some dried fruit.
This is a “Jessie-fied” version of a recipe from Ottolenghi’s Simple. I use peanuts instead of tree nuts, honey instead of date syrup/corn syrup, and lemon zest instead of orange zest. I am telling you this to show how versatile this recipe is. As long as you use the same proportions, you can get away with swapping most of the ingredients. I always like to have some flexibility depending on what is in the pantry at the moment.
⅔ cup roasted and salted peanuts
2 cups of rolled oats, divided
¼ cup roasted sunflower seeds
¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
9-10 pitted Medjool dates (5 oz)
200 grams salted butter
⅔ cup of coconut sugar
¼ cup honey
Zest of 1 small lemon
Pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 12 x 8-inch pan and line it with parchment paper.
Add the peanuts to a food processor, and pulse to pulverize. You want very small pieces, but not so small it’s the texture of sand. Or, if you really go too far, you will end up with peanut butter.
Add processed peanuts to a large bowl. Then add 1 cup of the oats to the food processor and the other 1 cup of oats to the large bowl with the peanuts. Pulse the oats to process into small pieces, but don’t take it to the texture of oat flour. Transfer to the large bowl.
Add the seeds to the bowl. Chop the dates and add them as well.
Roughly cut up the butter into chunks and add to a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut sugar, honey, and lemon zest. Let the wet ingredients warm up and gently mix together. Keep stirring until the butter is melted and it has come together. Pour over the oat mixture and mix thoroughly to combine.
Pour everything into the parchment-lined pan. Using a small spatula or spoon, lightly press down and even out the top of the bars.
Place in the over to bake for 35 minutes.
Let cool in the pan. Cut in half lengthwise, and six times widthwise into 12 rectangular bars.
You can immediately eat (they will be quite soft) or let them harden in the fridge to firm up.