What is your favorite part of the day? What do you look forward to most?
Maybe it’s leaving work…
Meeting a long-time friend for drinks and dinner…
A hot shower…
Snuggling on the couch with your dog, cat or significant other…
Heading to the gym or your favorite fitness class…
Eating an awesome dinner that you cooked yourself…
A glass (or two) of wine…
Everyone has something that they look forward to in the day. And I believe it’s the little things in life that are the most enjoyable, that matter the most, and that get us out of bed every morning.
So, what’s my secret? Granola bars…
I know what you are thinking… “Seriously, Julie? Your secret to life, success, and unwavering happiness is granola bars?”
Hear me out…
The Most Important Meal of the Day
I never used to eat breakfast. Growing up, both my parents had full time jobs. As a child of the 90s, my parents did not have the flexibility to show up to work when they wanted. There was no “work from home’ option. And they had to wear suits.
So, every morning before work and school was chaos. My brother and I hated school, so both my parents had to fight every morning to get us up, get ready for school, and get out of the house, all while they had to get ready themselves…
Needless to say, there wasn’t much time for breakfast.
The only time I would ever eat breakfast was when my mom made those Pillsbury cinnamon buns that came in a tube with the frosting packet. But because of my parents’ rigorous work-week schedules, the blessed cinnamon bun event only occurred on weekends.
As I grew up, and progressed through high school, college, and started working for a living, I never ate breakfast.
I know, I know… breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
When I started working in Boston, everything changed—for many reasons. I had a 90-minute commute, one way, every day. So, I had to get up at 4:30am to catch the train and arrive at the office at an acceptable hour.
In order to keep up with the incredibly long days, I had to find ways to increase my energy levels so that I could function throughout the day. I knew my diet needed a serious adjustment—and it had to begin with breakfast. Literally.
It was also when I started drinking coffee.
As someone with dairy sensitivities, I had to be careful about which foods I chose for breakfast. I couldn’t have cereal with milk, no cream or milk in my coffee, and no egg and cheese sandwiches.
I had to get creative.
So, like 81 percent of females over the age of 30, I surfed Pinterest for recipes.
Peanut Butter Granola Bars
I came across a recipe titled, “Peanut Butter Granola Bars”. I immediately clicked on it and thought: It’s healthy and it will satisfy my daily peanut butter needs! So, I gave it a try…
They were absolutely delicious. They were healthy. They were filling. They were cheap and easy.
They were perfect.
Although the granola bars came out awesome, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original recipe. It involved adding sugar and vegetable oil (or coconut oil), which I wasn’t a huge fan of.
Over the years, I have modified the recipe to my liking. No sugar. No vegetable oil.
Oh, and a TON of peanut butter.
My Not-So-Secret Recipe: A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That…
Although the recipe is derivative, I have modified the recipe enough where I feel comfortable calling it my own.
In fact, I have been making these for so long, I don’t even measure anything anymore… And I can predict exactly how they will come out by watching the ingredients form into delicious peanut-buttery glory in my Kitchen Aid mixer.
Here are the basic ingredients;
- 2 cups of old-fashioned oats (NOT the oatmeal in a packet)
- A cup or two or three of peanut butter (chunky or creamy)
- A tablespoon or two or three of pure honey
- A cup of raisins (optional)
- A cup of unsalted peanuts (also optional)
You CAN use vegetable oil, coconut oil, and vanilla extract if you so choose.
Once the ingredients are mixed fully, spoon the mixture into an 8 x 8 brownie pan.
Bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Allow them to sit overnight. (I let mine sit in the microwave so my cats don’t eat them…) This allows the ingredients to stick together really, REALLY well, keeping them from falling apart. If you try and cut them while they are still warm, they will fall apart.
Also, how you make them completely depends on how you prefer your granola bars. If you like them crispy, then use less peanut butter and bake them for about five minutes longer.
I, personally, love them soft and chewy. So, I use several heaping cups of creamy peanut butter, honey, and bake them for only 15 minutes.
And for someone who never ate breakfast, I don’t know how I could live the rest of my life without these!
They Are JUST Granola Bars… Why They Are the Perfect Meal and Snack
I have been making these granola bars religiously for about 3 years… and I have eaten them just about every single day since (except for the occasional special trip to Muffin House…)
And, no, I haven’t gotten sick of them.
So. Really. They are just granola bars… Nothing earth-shattering. But, here is what makes them so awesome:
- They Are Easy to Make. They take about 5-10 minutes to mix, and 15-20 minutes to bake.
- They Are Cheap. They cost about less than $10 to buy all the ingredients (which makes multiple batches!)
- They Are Healthy. They are also made with all the key ingredients needed for a healthy, energized, productive day:
- Natural sugars (fructose and glucose) (*To any health nuts who are reading this article, before you yell at me about the possible health issues caused by fructose and glucose, read this article…)
- They Are Filling. These bad boys are incredibly filling—but won’t give you that gross, bloated feeling. I have calculated that one 3-inch bar (depending on how you cut them) is approximately 150-300 calories (again, depending on the size, and the level of ingredients).
- They Save Time. I make a huge batch once a week. They feed me breakfast (and maybe for a snack or two…) every single day for about a week, which saves time from making a different meal for breakfast every day.
- They Suit Any Diet. They are low carb. They are high in protein. They are vegan. They are dairy free. They aren’t so gluten free, but, gluten-free eaters, you can probably substitute the oats with another gluten-free option.
- They Are Easy to Take On the Go. These granola bars are easy to throw in a bag, a container or a lunch box and take with you on the go whether you are headed to work, school, the gym or on a road trip.
- Other People Love Them. When my brother and my cousin come over to visit, and I offer them a snack or a drink, they both ask… “Do you have any of those granola bars?”
One day I texted my brother asking if I could come visit him at work. His reply: “Yes. But bring me a bag of your granola bars.”
I used to store the cooked granola bars in a plastic Zip-lock bag in my cabinet. But, then the cats starting opening the cabinets and getting into the bag… So, now I keep them in sealed Tupperware containers.
- They Motivate Me. Through the years, they have become something I look forward to.
I literally go to bed every night, and look forward to having my coffee, my granola bars, and my work the next morning.
Find Something to Motivate You
I truly believe that the key is a successful, productive life is all in mindset. So, I encourage you to find what it is that gets you out of bed every morning. That silly thing that you love. That little thing that motivates you in a BIG way. That encourages you. That little thing you can’t get enough of. That makes you feel awesome.
So, whatever it is that you do every day—whatever goals you want or need to accomplish—make sure you start it off with a healthy breakfast.