Almond Fig Granola Bars

Back in the day, I posted about Nigella's granola bars.  My friend Jordan made them and commented, "I don't know how else to say it--they just tasted healthy." Some of you know Jordan, and you know that she is the absolute PICTURE of diplomacy. She never has a bad thing to say about anyone.  So her comment is basically the equivalent of throwing the whole damn batch in the garbage and cussing me out.

Jordan and I met for lunch at Oddfellows today--she's home from NYC on holiday break.  And yes, I'm definitely linking to Oddfellows, still one of my favorite places and spaces ever.  To make up for last spring's healthy disaster, I brought her some of these.  I cannot stop eating them.

Every morning, Loretta wakes up earlier than the rest of us, wanders into our room with binky and Hug (her stuffed lamb, of course!) and says, "Mom, can I have a 'nola bar?"  I buy the Quaker 60-packs at Costco.  They taste like sweetened sawdust. She eats them happily in front of Sesame Street, and every night I sweep up the crumbs from under the couch.  These are not those. Or the disappointing curse-Sarah-under-your-breath ones.

I found the recipe in the magazine Eating Well, which was hanging around the gym.  By the time I was done with my workout, I had decided to stop at the store on the way home to buy cereal and almond butter.  And I ripped the recipe out of the magazine, hoping everyone's iPods were too loud to notice.

I've been driving a lot for work lately, and these solve a lot of problems for me.  Full of fiber; sticky and just-sweet-enough; infinitely portable while still being a little soft; and able to be found with one hand while I'm talking on the phone (don't tell the Bluetooth cops).

And welcome home, Jordan.  Seattle and this Seattle girl have missed you like crazy.

Almond Fig Granola Bars
Adapted from Eating Well.  They call for currants and dried apricots--I used dried cranberries and figs instead.  I cannot get enough of dried figs these days.   But you can certainly play around with what you add.  These aren't low-cal, by any means.  Brown sugar, honey, almond butter.  But they'll keep you full and happy so you don't gorge on cheese right when you walk in the door.  I took one in my pocket the other morning, walking in the early morning rain down to the train station.  It made my dreary morning a lot brighter.  If you like them firm, store them in the fridge.  I like them more yielding, so store them in a canister on the counter.

1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1 Tb. flaxseeds or ground flaxmeal
1 Tb. sesame seeds
1 c. unsweetened whole-grain puffed cereal (like Kashi)
1/3 c. dried cranberries
2/3 c. dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. creamy almond butter
1/4 c. turbinado or brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

Lightly oil an 8"square pan.

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast until everything is lightly browned and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add cereal, cranberries, and figs, toss to combine.

Combine almond butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt in small saucepan.  Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles slightly, 2-5 minutes.

Immediately pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan.  Lightly oil your hands and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.  Cut into bars--whatever size is most practical for you.