Cooking up a storm: Granola bars and black bean chili

It was a snowy, blustery day and I wasn’t in the mood to go outside. In fact, I was very much in the mood to stay inside. Check that, I was excited to stay inside with occasional forays outside to shovel my driveway. It was the first true sweep of winter over my neighborhood and I was going to embrace it. Every last second of it. And part of my plan for embracing it was spending a good portion of the day in the kitchen. Cooking.

Chewy granola chunks, er, bars.

I made a loaf of homemade bread in my new-to-me bread machine. (Hand me downs are so in these days.) Then I wanted to try out a recipe that came to my inbox via Vegetarian Times for chewy granola bars. Then I wanted to make some hearty chili for my winter’s evening dinner. The best news about it all was that I would have food available for at least an entire week, probably more as I’d freeze a good portion of the chili.

There is something satisfying to me about cooking for myself. It’s the control of the ingredients and the method. It’s knowing that I’m doing something nourishing for my body. And for me, much like exercising isn’t only about having my body be fit, the cooking/nutrition part of healthy living also feeds (and soothes) my soul.

Black bean chili, homemade bread and a glass of wine.

My bread machine experiments are coming along nicely, although so far I’ve only made basic honey whole wheat bread. The chewy granola bars tasted great, but I had some difficulty getting them cleanly out of the pan. They were more free-form chunks than bars, but still really, yummy and slightly addictive. The chili recipe is a standard from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Cooking. (Martha has some pretty good recipes. Get over her.) It has the added bonus of being really quick to bring together. Turns out my mom had the same inclination over the long weekend, making muffins, pea soup and goulash. Perhaps something is in the air these days. Do you have kitchen days? What do you like to make?

Chewy Granola Bars


  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large egg whites


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9×13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and 1/4 tsp. salt in bowl. Stir in apricots, chocolate chips and walnuts.
  3. Beat brown sugar, maple syrup, almond butter, oil and egg whites with electric beater until smooth. Stir in oat mixture.
  4. Spread mixture in prepared baking dish, and pat down firmly. Sprinkle top with remaining salt. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm. Cool 20 minutes before slicing into bars. Unmold, and store in airtight container.

Vegetarian Black-Bean Chili


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cans (19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed


  1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened and carrots are soft, 8 to 10 minutes more.


3 Comments on “Cooking up a storm: Granola bars and black bean chili

    • Rebecca: I’m not extremely knowledgeable on gluten-free cooking/baking but I do know there is gluten-free pastry flour and a simple swap of that should work fine. If you make sure to use certified oats, I think you’ll be all good. Anyone else know the gluten-free diet enough to chime in with any necessary adjustments?

      • Thanks Amy! I’ll have to try that. Bob’s Red Mill has great GF oats so I’ll check for the GF pastry flour too. It’s always hard finding gluten free granola bars that don’t cost a fortune. I’m going to have to try this. Thanks again.

%d bloggers like this: