My friend Sara is a great cook, and she's forever amazing me with her deftness at making something transcendent out of a few simple ingredients. She doesn't tend to favor elaborate, cloying desserts -- more than once she's ended a dinner party with a plate of her homemade "granola bars." They're chewy and rich, a jumble of nuts, cereal, seeds and dried fruit barely held together with almond butter and honey (no baking involved). She's not shy with the salt, which I think really sets these bars apart. Last week, she shared the recipe with me, and now I'm sharing it with you. These are great to have around, as a dessert or a snack. —Merrill Stubbs
about 30 2-inch bars
1 1/2 cups
old fashioned rolled oats
raw sunflower seeds
raw sliced almonds
raw pumpkin seeds
brown rice crispies (you can substitute regular rice crispies or puffed rice)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds. (Sara recommends toasting them all separately because of different burn rates -- I found that the pumpkin seeds took the least amount of time, at 7 minutes, and the sunflower seeds the most, at about 15 minutes.)
When all the items are sufficiently toasted, toss them with the brown rice crispies, sliced apricot and cranberries in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the almond butter and honey just to get melty, not cooked. (This is your glue and if it boils or even comes close, it gets hard and yucky.) Stir in the salt and cinnamon, then pour over the oat and nut mixture and stir. You want to get everything incorporated and 'glued' together without crushing the tender crispies.
Turn into a 9x13 baking dish lined with parchment and press the mixture evenly and firmly -- again, try not crush the crispies too much. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Cut into 2-inch squares before serving.