Homemade Granola Bars

One of my dear friend’s parents happened to be in town for a conference. They very generously took Sawyer and me out to dinner. I thought about it for a while–there is a plethora of good restaurants in Beijing. First time China-visit, they definitely needed to be introduced to Beijing duck. It’s an unwritten law. No tourist shall leave Beijing without tasting. But my usual place on Chunxiu seemed inadequate (or maybe I’ve just been there too often). The two best places for duck in Beijing? Quanjude, the most famous, where visiting dignitaries and the like go, or Duck de Chine, one of the pocket sized restaurants comprising 1949, Hidden Village. I’ve heard great things and Hidden Village is so picturesque, so I made reservations there for 7 and asked for two ducks to be prepared. Anticipation for the duck feast kept me excited (and hungry) all day.

We met my friend’s parents in front of Pacific Century Place and walked around back to 1949. I always forget to made my reservations under my Chinese name, it would have been so much easier for the hostess. We were seated quickly, and I had asked for two ducks to be prepared when I made reservations. We also ordered tofu skin rolls, spicy mushrooms, and duck fried rice.
The restaurant is beautiful and our guests really loved it. They had a very fancy fermented-rice-sauce ritual, ladling it out of pottery jars to the individuals, and artistically swirling and adding your choice of minced garlic, sesame and peanut paste. The duck was as good as any other, although a little stingy on the servings, and they didn’t include the fried duck bones or duck soup found at many other duck restaurants. The price definitely reflects the setting and ambiance more than anything else. Still, the dinner was great. For dessert we ordered dan ta, or Cantonese egg tarts, and these really fantastic bowls of mango, pumelo and sago pearls with coconut cream and mango juice. I probably won’t go back to Duck de Chine, since there are better bargains to be had for Beijing duck (RMB238 just for one duck!), but it was well worth one visit.

Oatmeal at the office every day for breakfast has been getting kind of boring, and I ran out of the Luna bars that I brought from home. We wanted portable and healthy (especially after that duck dinner) breakfasts, since eating a jianbing or guanbing from a Beijing street cart a) is definitely not healthy because its fried dough and fried egg and fried other things, and b) can’t be that sanitary either, what with the no hand washing, dirty money, dirty cart, unrefrigerated ingredients, etc. So we decided to make granola bars.

Sawyer liked the first attempt better, I liked the second. More experimentation to come!
Both attempts followed about the same recipe, although I wasn’t measuring at all the second time, and we added more fruit. The first was chewier, I may have overcooked the second batch.

Basic contents: 3 cups of oatmeal. 1/2 cup of brown sugar. 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/3 cup of apple sauce, 1/4 cup peanut butter, cinnamon, vanilla, 1/4 cup honey. 3/4 cup of chcolate chips or a few chocolate bars chopped into pieces. 1/3 cup dried cranberries. In the second batch we added peanuts, golden raisins, and chopped up dried mango.

I started with half a pumpkin, cut into small pieces and baked until fork-tender. Mixed with cinnamon, a little butter and brown sugar, I blended it up into a puree. This freezes well for future use (more granola bars, pumpkin pies, what have you). The apple sauce is easy enough; 1-2 apples chopped up, cooked with a little water, cinnamon, sugar and butter for 10-20 minutes, and blended. I took the extra as a snack for work.

Dried fruit and oats

First, mix the brown sugar, apple sauce, pumpkin puree, peanut butter, and vanilla together in a small pot, heat until melty and smooth. Mix the oats and cinnamon together. Throw in the chocolate and dried fruit, and pour the liquid over it, mixing well. It’s going to get sticky, but mix until all the oats are thoroughly coated.

Sticky granola batter

Not having any parchment paper, I lined a baking dish with buttered tin foil, and used a rubber spatula to press the mixture evenly down into it. Then baked at 180C for twenty five minutes.
Pulled it out of the oven and after a few minutes cooling, lifted the whole thing out of the dish by tin foil, and laid it on a cutting board to cut with a bread knife (a pizza cutter would have been just the thing here).

Breakfast all week!

Healthy and not too bad for a first try!


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