Tree Nut Free Granola Bars

Valentine's Day, to say we celebrate it wouldn't be accurate, sometimes we do, sometimes we don't, we show affection and love even on a day off. Sometimes heated discussion, a passion reserved only for those you care about the most. Jonathan and I in the kitchen, I wing it and interpret and he, literal, follows a recipe to the letter. He makes the perfect omelets time in and time out so I don't even bother. Boils eggs to right consistency with complete confidence unlike me. That is where his culinary adventures start and end, other than him being a very reluctant sous chef or more of a laborer in the kitchen. He summons all his wit and dry humor to the task but yet again it rolls off his tongue. At the receiving end I mostly burst out laughing as he catches me off guard and surprises with his sharp mind and smarts. After these many years together seems the guy still got some material and game and I call this love.
Speaking of love, often we speak of tidbits of the day and what we have read in the news or heard on NPR driving in the car. His reading of the political map recently was so accurate and predictions that are right on, but again he is a history buff. I mention tiger mom, which he missed, and Ayelet Waldman's name, which he vaguely recalled, comes up as she stirred up some controversy way before the current one. The discussion sparked and I put it plainly to Jonathan: 'do you love me or S more?' and he answers without as much as a flinch and serves the question right back. That is love.
I have made granola for breakfast before and always romanticized, not about chocolate, but the perfect granola bars. I almost settled on a recipe I've seen as it reminded me of my mom's Indian sesame or peanut brittle, but got less invested in it as I realized I don't want the granola bars to be crunchy, hard like a brittle but more chewy, soft. I eventually after careful scanning of many recipes, came across one at Smitten Kitchen's recipe that she adjusted from King Arthur Flour's website. This is my interpretation of it. I didn't use corn syrup, adjusted sugar:honey ratio and kept it tree nut free. I used Sugar in the Raw and toasted some of the seeds prior to adding to the mixture. I made three batches. In one I subbed apple sauce for the corn syrup and two without as I was shipping them as a care package to my son in college and probably his floor mates. The kid can't help himself. I loved both versions very much. The version below is what worked for us and is a keeper hopefully for generations, but please read Smitten Kitchen's suggestions and recipe carefully before proceeding. I promise you will come up with an exceptional version to call your own.

Granola Bars:

1 2/3 Cups rolled oats
1/2 Cup Sugar in the Raw
1/3 Cup rolled oats processed in food processor to oat flour
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 Cup peanut butter
1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
6 Tablespoons canola oil
1/2 Cup honey
1 Tablespoon water
3/4 cups unsweetened coconut flakes or fine
1/4 Cup flax seeds
3/4 Cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds
1/3-1/2 Cup currants
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce (optional)

Toss in a frying pan on dry low/medium heat first the sunflower seeds just to toast slightly even before getting golden, just for few minutes, then scoop into a large bowl. Next toss into same pan sesame seeds and toast slightly again. You will smell aroma of each ingredient and entire process is very quick, you don't want ingredients to burn or even to reach a deep color. Scoop sesame seeds into bowl with sunflower seeds. Last toss into pan coconut flakes for few minutes and scoop into same bowl with seeds.

From this point on you follow same directions as Smitten Kitchen's recipe here. I cut the bars into rectangular bars not squares as I am obsessed with the idea of bars, but practically speaking a serving will be half of that bar so smaller squares as you see at Smitten Kitchen's photograph make more sense.

Note and a tip: I used a meat tenderizer to press the granola. As you cut the granola bars you will have crumbs left. I collect all the crumbs into an air tight container and Jonathan has it as cereal with milk for breakfast.

Related posts: Rolled Oats Pancakes here and Snowy Day Granola here.

Costco find: Bulk Sugar in the Raw

Care package includes: Chocolate Chip/Banana and Meyer Lemon/Blueberry Muffins you can find here. Fine cooking's chewy brownies you can find here and these granola bars among other goodies. More pics to come as I put together the care package.