August 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

Let's Talk Food: Cheap, easy, tasty breakfast bar makes morning shine

Full of nuts and raisins, this breakfast bar is hearty with the perfect amount of sweetness. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

My husband’s Aunt Bev on his dad’s side — that’s right, he has one on each side — sends out a Recipes of the Month email chockful of recipes and her notes, suggestions and experience on them.

So as I started my journey to find a cheap, easy, hearty, tasty breakfast bar recipe to make my husband, I went straight to the family expert (this being before Kate’s recent feature on breakfast bars and smoothies) — and Aunt Bev’s first suggestion was from cooks.com.

The site, which runs a strip of most popular recipes along the top, breaks recipes into both specific categories from appetizers or international to eggs or sauces and a “featured recipes” list, also has helpful tabs like reviews, conversions and cooking times. It’s easily searchable, too.

It was the reviews section that drew Aunt Bev to the first of the 18 (that’s right, 18; she doesn’t mess around) recipes for breakfast bars she found and sent me.

A few days later, when my boss and I were kicking around ideas for “Let’s Talk Food” columns, she mentioned the site, too, and wondered what readers’ go-to cooking or recipe sites are. Great question. We’d love to hear in the comments below.

As for my odyssey for a homemade bar my husband will like as well (or almost as well) as his favorite but pricy Oatmeal To Go bars: I started with this one because with my in-laws having left some mixed nuts behind after a recent visit, I had everything needed on hand. I toyed with the ingredients just a touch, going half and half with butter and unsweetened applesauce where they called for 23 cup butter to see if I could rein in the fat and calories just a touch.

It was easy to make, and when prodded for feedback, my husband waxed all poetic (dragging him into watching “Chopped” with me must be paying off): “The sweetness is just perfect with the flavor of raisins and nuts adding to the hearty feel of it. The texture is quite firm and hearty, and it fills you up because of the nuts. It has a homey flavor to it, a warm, wholesome taste ...” (and here comes my favorite part) “You can feel the love.”

Despite the rave review, the breakfast bar journey doesn’t end there; though he loves them, nuts seem to give my husband a bit of a hard time. So you’ll be seeing more experiments in the future. Meanwhile, if nuts don’t bother you, give the recipe below a try — and see if you “can feel the love.”

Granola Bars

Adapted from Cooks.com

3 ½ cups oats
1 cup raisins (Aunt Bev added a note here: “craisins would be great also!”)
1 cup nuts
¼ cup slivered/chopped almonds
A shy ½ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
13 cup butter
13 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

Tips from the original recipe:

■A mixture of nuts works best and raw peanuts are very good as one part of the mixture.

■Combine dried fruit with the raisins for added variety.

■Taste the granola and add more or less honey (or molasses if you prefer) according to your preference; the original recipe suggested between 13 and ½ cup.

■It’s possible to make a double batch of the basic mixture so you can use part for a breakfast cereal; to do so, before adding the honey, remove half of the mixture and store in refrigerator. Proceed with remaining mixture as above to make the bars.

Making the granola:

In a large, ungreased shallow pan, toast oats and nuts in a 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Toss with remaining ingredients, mixing well.

Press firmly into a 15- by 10-inch jelly roll pan which has been generously sprayed with nonstick spray or brushed with peanut or vegetable oil.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until lightly browned along edges. Cool. Cut into bars.

Do you have a go-to website for recipes or tips? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. You need a Facebook account to add comments, but they’re free and easy to sign up for, which is how I managed to have one for years and ignore it except for this sort of thing. I’ll be keeping an eye out the next few days to respond to any great comments or questions you post. You can also follow me on Twitter @reentiz. Join the discussion!