My kids take these granola bars to school for snack, and they doubtless experience an, "I can't believe it's not cookies" feeling of righteous swindlery. The fact that the bars are packed with whole grains and nuts, seeds and dried fruits, means that they're an excellent source of energy and nutrients, despite the sweet, greasy facts of butter and honey. This is my version of an excellent Ina Garten recipe -- she's the Barefoot Contessa, and I really love her no-nonsense style of cooking and eating.
The original recipe uses cranberries, but I love dried cherries, and continue to swear by buying them at Trader Joe's. Use whatever dried fruit you like. These are also less sweet without the sugar, but they don't stick together quite as confidently. You decide. Once the bars are cooled and cut, I wrap them individually in wax or parchment paper.
Yields 20 bars
Heat the oven to 350° F, butter an 8- by 12-inch baking dish, and line it with parchment paper.
Mix the oats, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, then transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ and flax meal.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300° 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 oat mixture and stir in the dates, apricots, and cherries. Stir well. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Even it out and press it flat with a spatula, then wet your fingers press it more firmly and evenly into the pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares or oblongs. Store airtight.