Here we are, two-thirds of the way through Oats and Oatmeal Month, and my favorite food holiday calendar over on TheNibble tells me it’s National Granola Bar Day.

I mentioned to a friend that I was making granola bars to honor the occasion and she said, “You can make granola bars?”” It wasn’t that she was questioning my capabilities – it was more of a universal doubt, as in “Real people can make granola bars? They don’t only come in a box?”

It always amuses (and at the same time saddens) me to see how amazed many people are when they realize that it’s easy to make your own version of many store-bought foods. Sure they all know people can make cookies at home, and maybe cakes (if you buy a mix), but granola bars? Hamburger buns? English muffins? All of these are possible, but today, on January 20th, granola bars are the star of the show.

First a definition of “granola bar” is in order. Since oats are one of the key ingredients of any granola, we’re defining granola bar to be any chewy, bar-shaped concoction that contains oats. Granola bars are also usually very dense, composed of chunks of stuff with something sticky holding them together. If there are expanses of plain dough, you’re getting suspiciously close to cookie territory.

MIT’s website credits inventor Stanley Mason with creating the first granola bar. This is the guy who invented the first disposable contoured diaper, the squeezable ketchup bottle, and the dental floss dispenser, so it’s not hard to picture him coming up with the granola bar.  On the other hand, a fellow named Herrick Kimball swears he came up with the idea first, in 1975, when he was just 17. Mason died in 2006, so it’s unlikely the matter will ever be resolved (though Wikipedia sides with Mason).

Whoever invented the concept, you can invent your own variation and take credit. The basic ingredients are:

  • Oats

  • Other grains (flakes, wheat germ, etc.)

  • Chunky things (dried fruits, nuts, seeds, coconut, etc.)

  • Sweetener (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, etc.)

  • Fat or oil (nut butter, butter, oil, coconut oil)

  • Flavorings (vanilla, cinnamon

The basic instructions are:

  1. mix everything together

  2. press into a pan

  3. cook for a little while and cool

  4. cut into bars

You can do this. Your kids can do this. You can have fun – and the kids can wow their friends when they bring their own granola bars to school. (Or you can wow the dweeb in the next cubicle, at work.)

We recommend you start by trying an existing recipe to get the hang of it, then have fun experimenting. When you make your own, you can keep the sweetness to a reasonable level, for a much healthier bar.  The good folks at Whole Grain Gourmet have given us a recipe for Coconut Almond Granola Bars, with a traditional granola-bar consistency, and Multigrain Energy Bars, a denser, higher-protein take more like commercial energy bars (only better!).

Check out Whole Grain Gourmet (and our own recipe pages) for lots of wonderful whole grain recipes.  Even after National Granola Bar Day is over, you’ll want to be ready for National Banana Bread Day (February 23), Oatmeal-Nut Waffles Day (March 11), National Pretzel Day (April 26) and any other excuse to experiment with new whole grain recipes! (Cindy)


John Walsh
My wife made and sold granola bars in 1969 at the Wednesday Farmers Market in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. She made them on cookie sheets with a rim, of molasses, oats, nuts, etc., and cut them into bar shapes which she wrapped in plastic wrap.
Though it didn't take off as it did in the later century. Quaker Oats invented cereal bars in 1906.

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