Healthy-ish Granola Bars to Eat in the Future

Illustration: Tram Nguyen


Lately I have frequently found myself wide awake at 6 a.m., tired but unable to fall back asleep, frantically googling things like “what can a person eat with one hand?????” This is because my body is currently hosting a child and, did you know, it is impossible to sleep when you have a human fetus crushing your internal organs

During those sleepless early morning hours it’s very, very difficult to avoid considering what life will look like in the not-so-distant future, when there will be an infant taking residence in my apartment, making demands on my body and time and mental capacity and also, critically, on my arms. Babies need to be held, I’m told. They should not be dropped. You must support their necks. You should keep them happy if possible, and you must feed them. Also you must feed yourself. Only how?! Keeping a little blob alive and not-screaming appears to be a labor-intensive activity requiring most of your limbic system—and also most of your limbs.

This is where the early morning googling comes in. You’re supposed to have things you can eat with minimal effort (i.e., one hand). You’re supposed to cook them in advance and put them in your freezer, to be saved for future moments of desperation. You’re supposed to be prepared, not just mentally but also literally, with dozens of frozen food-things that you have lovingly whipped up in anticipation of this future, unknown, child-having self. I’m not typically the type of person who stocks up in this way. I have exactly one jar of homemade chicken broth in the freezer, and that’s only because I totally forgot about it until two nights ago, when Rob insisted that we clean out the fridge and unearthed it from all the way in the back. (It’s very old. Like I don’t even know how old, possibly a year or two. Does frozen chicken stock go bad? Someone please advise in the comments.) Plus, I dunno what the hell kind of one-armed foods I will want to eat in two months!

Perhaps you have noticed I keep saying this is something I should do. When you’re pregnant, you get a lot of advice. You ask for it, for one thing, and then sometimes it just falls out of strangers’ mouths while you’re standing behind them in the sandwich line. I don’t mind this! It’s useful, probably (some of it? who knows!), but it’s also fascinating. Uh, breaking news, but the process of growing a baby in your uterus is very weird. Being pregnant is one of those things that seems totally normal right up until you do it and then it is completely shocking. Discussing the experience with people who have recently endured it is essential, if only to assure yourself that you are not the only person in human history to feel like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens. But in certain cases these confidantes, especially the ones you, say, meet on the bus, don’t know exactly how much is appropriate to share—or how much they want to share—so they use coded language. And that is the language of advice. I have learned a lot about the maternal experience via casual conversations that start with, “so, have you gotten a stroller?” Believe me, talking with someone about online stroller shopping can be a real window into the human psyche. And once you get to the ‘where are you delivering?’ question, all bets are off. Other people’s birth plans are seriously revealing. (Obviously, this isn’t always the case. Plenty of people don’t care that I’m pregnant and are really just making small talk. And some just have really good tips on which cribs are made with organic wood.)

Regardless of motive, I’m into it. I genuinely relish preparing for an experience for which it is truly impossible to prepare, I love making to-do lists, and I especially enjoy cherry-picking advice based on what I was already going to do anyway. Come at me with your best product recommendations!

All of which is to say, the whole food prep thing is one bit of guidance that has popped up repeatedly in the course of my inadvertent intelligence-gathering. So: granola bars! Works for me. Snacks are my favorite food group. Plus, I have lately been cooking my way through the glorious Violet Bakery Cookbook, and it contains a great and extremely healthy granola recipe. I tweaked that recipe to make it slightly junkier (chocolate!) and also to transform it into bar form. The only real problem is that quinoa flakes are outrageously expensive and also somewhat hard to find; feel free to sub something else in for that ingredient—and then tell me what it is so I can do it, too. The bars are delicious as they are, though. I know this because I keep sneaking them out of the freezer to snack on them, which means I’ll run out just in time for everything to go haywire. Which I’m sure it will regardless, so who cares?! My new motto is, do what you want while you can. Life is crazy and the ice caps are melting anyway! Plus, you can always buy granola bars in bulk on the internet.

Healthy-ish Granola Bars to Eat in the Future

Adapted from the Violet Bakery Cookbook

Makes about 12 granola bars

3 cups quinoa flakes
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/6 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/8 cup millet
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 cup raw honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened dried sour cherries, roughly chopped
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the quinoa flakes, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and millet. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 30 minutes, until lightly browned.

While the granola mixture is toasting, stir together the coconut oil, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt until over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to bubble slightly. Remove from heat.

Remove granola mixture from the oven and pour into a bowl. Stir in the cherries and chocolate chips, and pour the coconut-honey syrup over the mixture. Stir until the dry mixture is fully incorporated.

Lay a piece of parchment paper over a 14″x16″ cookie sheet. Spread the granola mixture in the middle of the the parchment paper as evenly as possible, leaving several inches on each side. Place another piece of parchment paper over the granola. With a rolling pin, even out the granola into a uniform sheet about 1/2 inch thick, packed as tightly as possible. Leave in the freezer, covered with parchment paper, for 2-3 hours. Remove from the freezer and transfer the granola onto a cutting board. With a chef’s knife, cut the bars in a 3×4 grid, creating 12 granola bars. Sample one, put the rest in the freezer, and then eat them sneakily over the course of the next several weeks. Then start this process all over again.

3 Comments Write a comment

  1. Tram, that illustration is bananas!! In my next life I want to be an art boss like you.

    Lucy, congrats on the bun!! I am heartened to see the world is being repopulated by cool people like you. You’re not going to raise some kid who swears a tomato smoothie tastes just like a pizza.

  2. Thanks Elle! I think you overestimate how cool I am, but at the very least I promise I will never feed my progeny a tomato smoothie.

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