I started training for the Los Angeles marathon in May. This will be my third marathon and this time, I’m determined to complete the 26.2-mile race in a reasonable time. Trust me, I’m not trying to run it in four hours, five hours, or even under six hours. I just want to be able to finish it while the sun is still up and the roads are not empty. My boyfriend jokes (or is he?) that, instead of a stop watch, he will buy me a calendar. Needless to say, I’m very slow. I’m actually slower than slow walkers. But that doesn’t stop me from taking on the challenge, darn it! And I’m happy that my colleague and friend Noelle have decided to run it with me. (By the way, I don’t run marathons because I like to run. In fact, I think running is evil. I just do it to collect medals because I’m a medal whore.)
Proper nutrition becomes extremely important when training for something crazy like a marathon. I know the energy bars can come in handy when you’re looking for a quick boost, but I get skeptical over the kind you buy at stores. First off, they look and taste like crap. Second, I can barely decipher the ingredients that are in them. And lastly, at couple bucks a pop, the cost can really add up.
I still want the nutritional benefits of the bar without compromising them with the mass-produced kind, so I decided to take the matter into my own hand and make my own, using the ingredients that I can actually pronounce. I used Alton Brown‘s delicious and easy homemade granola bar recipe I saw on Good Eats.
Alton’s recipe called for several ingredients that I wanted to avoid – butter and honey – so I replaced them with canola oil and agave nectar respectively. Agave nectar, I learned, has lower glycemic index than regular sugar and honey, which, ah who cares, it just tastes better! And as for butter, I’m on a mission to eliminate as many animal-based products from my diet as possible. I was afraid at first that these substitutions would compromise the way these granolas form their shape and would crumble, but I figured I would rather eat a healthier, crumbly bar than an unhealthy solid one. It did make the granola slightly crumbly so instead of making it into a bar, I decided to enjoy it as a mix.
Homemade Granola Mix (adapted from Alton Brown, Good Eats)
8 ounces old-fashioned rolled oats (approximately 2 cups)
1 1/2 ounces raw sunflower seeds (approximately 1/2 cup)
3 ounces sliced almonds (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 ounces wheat germ (approximately 1/2 cup)
6 ounces agave nectar (approximately 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 3/4 ounces dark brown sugar (approximately 1/2 cups packed)
1 ounce canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6-7 ounces chopped dried fruits (I used two kinds of raisins and apricots)
I got all the ingredients at Whole Foods. I love browsing through its dry food section because I could always find beans or grains I’ve never heard of that look interesting. (Note: There is a bottle of honey in the picture you see below, but it wasn’t used in this recipe … the bear just wanted to make a special appearance 🙂 )
Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan and toast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. In the meantime, prepare the wet ingredients by combining agave nectar, brown sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract and sea salt in a saucepan and cook until brown sugar is dissolved.
Combine the oat mixture, dried fruits (chopped to edible size) and the liquid. Make sure to do this immediately after removing the oat mixture from the oven. Pack the mixture tightly and evenly in a glass baking dish and bake in 300 degree oven for about 25 minutes (don’t forget to lower the oven temperature). By the way, the golden dried fruits you see are Hunza Golden Raisins and they were so delicious!
Remove from the oven and let it cool completely … and the result, a delicious homemade granola! Oh, and the total price of the entire thing came out to about $8.00. Now, you can’t beat that!
I’m going to go for a run just so that I can eat this 🙂