granola bars

This may seem a strange thing to say, the day before the nation’s biggest food holiday, especially one in which I’ll be doing the cooking, but here it is: I’m not really one for huge meals.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. It’s right up there with Easter as my favorite holiday. Every end of November, I love that we have a specific, routine reminder to stop and be grateful for all we’ve been given, and of course part of that is the table spread with turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and green been casserole and rolls and Jell-O molds and pies. But, if I were to offer one small complaint with this holiday, it is this: the indulgence of eating all those good things—and so much of them—at one, long, stuffing-yourself-until-your-pants-don’t-fit sitting. I’d much prefer to graze all day, and in fact, that’s what I do.

In my family, at Thanksgiving, we make more turkey than we need, so we can have sandwiches for a week after. We save all the sides and have entire meals, days later, of exactly the same thing. And a few years ago, when my then-boyfriend came to meet my family the day after The Big Thursday, we re-created the entire spread, as fully as if it had been the real deal.

One day of feasting becomes a week or more of quality grazing, and that’s exactly how I like it.

So anyway, this year, you could blame my lack of worry on last year’s relative success, as now I plan to pull everything together as the day unfolds, without a single to-do list or written strategy at my side. Or you could thank my parents, who paid for all the groceries and my mom who simply asked for a list and went and bought everything. You could say it’s because we’re staying in Illinois instead of transporting all kitchen tools and food up to the family cabin in Wisconsin like we did last year. But the truth is probably even simpler: I’m not worried about Thanksgiving because I’ve had my mind fixed on other things, things like trying new Brussels sprouts, making faux trail mixes of hazelnuts and chocolate, eating bowls of scalloped tomatoes for dinner, before snacks of clementines and then cookies with apple cider. You could see the pattern in my eating and rightly conclude: this girl’s got her mind on grazing, even at Thanksgiving, so when everyone’s talking turkey, she’s eating granola bars.

homemade granola

I made these granola bars Saturday, after coming home from brunch and antiquing (yes, more! antiquing!) and before heading to my friend Jackie’s house for dinner and a movie. I didn’t want a whole meal; I didn’t want a dessert; I wanted something to snack on. These were the perfect solution.

Gooey and slightly sticky, filled with sweetness from the honey, crunchiness from the almonds and heartiness from the oats, these bars have been a quick breakfast, an afternoon snack, something to nibble on before bed. And Thursday morning, while I’m sticking turkeys in the oven like people around the country are doing, you can bet these bars will be there, too, just as they should be.

Happy birthday, Dad! It’s so fitting that Dad’s birthday is always near (sometimes on) Thanksgiving because he is one of the people I am most thankful for. Here’s what I wrote about him a year ago today, if you want a small taste of what I love about him.

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Homemade Granola Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oats, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oats mixture. Add the raisins, currants and chocolate chips and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares (it helps them stick together better to go in the fridge for an hour or so). Serve at room temperature.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Kylie of Thin Crust Deep Dish

    I totally agree with you. I like to eat small bits at a time and prefer grazing over large meals. I’m a small person; I just can’t eat much at once! Happy birthday to your dad.

  2. Antonietta

    I agree too! I hate stuffing myself in one sitting. I’m always the picker who will still be snacking on things when it is time to clean the dishes.
    Happy Thanksgiving

  3. Jacqui

    my problem is that i like grazing AND stuffing myself. maybe i’ll show some restraint this year, though, since i’ll be shopping for a certain dress on saturday… :)

    have a great holiday, shanna! i’m thankful to have met you (again) and that the second time around, found a truly genuine friend.

  4. kate

    In everyday life, I much prefer grazing to all out, plate laden meals but on Thanksgiving I need to satisfy the masses and do it ‘the right way’. As if there is one…..

  5. Celeste

    Was just at the other story about your dad. I saw the first line and chuckled.
    My dad is a toffee fiend. In fact, I just went to Bellingham Washington yesterday to find a Sees candy to buy him the biggest box of their toffee pops.
    If you like coffee, the cappucino pop is amazing.
    Sadly we do not have a Sees shop in Vancouver BC

  6. montague

    i know what you mean, oddly enough!
    happy thanksgiving!

  7. Amanda

    Mmm, those granola bars look like a must-make. I’ve tried a few granola bar recipes, and for some reason haven’t found one that I like (or that my darling husband will eat ha!)

    And I’ve always felt the same way about the big meals. My favorite part is snacking on everything afterwards, and the day after…okay, the whole weekend! This year we even started early, as my parents sent us a Honeybaked Ham on Tuesday – we just started eating it right away!

  8. {kiss my spatula}

    YAY for more antiquing! i love homemade granola bars, so much goodness rolled into one. happy thanksgiving!!

  9. Jessica

    Wow I love granola bars and these look amazing. I almost thought it looked like dessert at first but so tasty!

  10. Shannalee

    Kylie, Exactly! Small portions make you appreciate what you’re eating more, too, I think. It’s like quality vs. quantity.

    Antonietta, Ha! We are just alike!

    Jacqui, It is so awesome that you’re dress shopping two days after the biggest eating day of the year. SO awesome. I can’t wait to hear about it and will be crossing my fingers for you. You have been so much fun to get to know this last more-than-a-year. Really glad to know you.

    Kate, Well if there were a day to do it, Thanksgiving is it! No judgment here, I promise!

    Celeste, Dad loved Sees last time he had candy from there! He definitely loves coffee and toffee, so it only makes sense! Thanks!

    Montague, Right back at you, Amy!

    Amanda, Clearly you are someone after my own heart! Love that you already started on the ham. Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving!

    Kiss my Spatula, Right? They are perfect snack foods!

    Jessica, The chocolate does give them a dessert feel, it’s true. But the oats make me feel healthy (ha!).

  11. Susan

    My problem is that I am bouncing around to different places every year so I find myself stuffing myself at one place while watching the clock to make sure I’m not late for my next destination. One day when I have a house I can merge families into one place and graze all day.

    Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  12. Shannalee

    Ha, Susan, that sounds like a busy Thanksgiving – but one filled with people and families and therefore GOOD. Hope yours was/is wonderful.

  13. Jess (Fit Chick in the City)

    Grazing is totally the way to go! The granola bars look tasty!

  14. Shannalee

    Jess, They are so, so tasty. I literally want to eat the entire pan I baked up tonight, and I already ate about a fourth of it.

  15. Caitlin

    I love granola bars, and I have just the dried fruit and nuts to add to a new batch of granola-ish stuffs. My family does grazing as well – cheese, crackers, and fruit are a necessity before every dinner, no matter the day. That + wine + talking over the day is one of the things I miss the most since moving away from home.

  16. Shannalee

    I love granola bars, too! The second time I made these, I added a little extra butter from scraps in the fridge and OH MY GOSH even better. Oh and I love cheese, crackers & fruit! Perfect grazing food indeed.

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