Have homemade granola bars, will travel. To Lebanon.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

The year was 1989, and I was a junior in college. My school offered all kinds of study abroad programs, including one for the summer. First my roommate Betsy said she was going. Then Julie. Then Kari. I wanted to go, I really did.

So I asked my parents. Suffice it to say that my father was never into the study abroad plan for any of his five children. Whenever we thought about it out loud, he’d say: don’t be exotic. Put your head down and study, study, study. He’d say, have a good time, not a helluva good time.

I was banking on a firm, incredulous “no” from both of my parents to such an extent that I had already told my friends I was sure I couldn’t go. When my parents said yes, ok, you can go, I just about fell over. I was excited, I suppose, but more than that, I was…afraid. Now I have to go, I realized. This wasn’t too long after the plane went down over Lockerbie, mind you.

In the two weeks between the end of the school year and the start of the trip, my mother helped me plan and pack. We put the luggage and everything I’d be taking on the bed in my brother’s empty room. She told me to be smart about my wardrobe (keep it simple, but dress nicely), not to worry about blowing my hair dry so I could focus on other things (would you just let it stay curly for a change?), and, perhaps most importantly: take travel snacks. She slid into my bag handfuls of granola bars and a jar of crunchy peanut butter.

When we arrived in Ireland for the first leg of the trip, after a long flight and now with 90 undergrads awaiting a bus in an airport parking lot, I was exhausted. And hungry. I remembered the granola bars, and opened my big suitcase right there on the blacktop in the hot sun. Thank you Mama!

This week I’m planning a whole lot more than travel snacks for a trip that wasn’t for my parents to approve of, but for me to give the go-ahead to myself. I’ve been pining for a visit to Lebanon for pretty much my entire conscious life, and probably even from the womb. The family has planned a few different trips there, only to be thwarted by things like war with a baby in tow, or my father’s reticence.

I was going to go just before heading to San Francisco for culinary school, but time and cash ran tight with leaving my job of 14 years. I thought I’d go last spring, after culinary school, but the overthrow in Egypt and general unrest in that part of the world kept me back (plus Lebanese relatives telling me directly: don’t go now). My friends have heard me talk about going to Lebanon so much that they probably have wanted to shove me off to Fantasy Island to get it out of my system.

I want to go to Lebanon, I really do. I’ve said no to myself so many times that I was banking on my own firm, incredulous “no” when my sister told me she’d be in London for a couple of weeks on business and we could meet in Beirut after that.

But then I heard myself saying ok Maureen, you can go, and I almost fell over. Am I afraid? Not too much. I’ve done my fair share of overseas travel since that first trip abroad. Besides, when we leave tomorrow I’ll have Mama right there with me. And this time I’m packing the granola bars, homemade, for her.

We won’t be cooking in the kitchen on Main Street next week, but I’ll be sure to send you a postcard or two…

Homemade Granola Bars
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s rather famous granola bars. The ingredients are remarkably flexible. In other words: have it your way! Ramp up the healthy quotient by using agave rather than honey and brown sugar. Replace toasted wheat germ (it comes already toasted) with flaxseed (but best not to leave one or the other out; it’s an important binding element). Use canola oil rather than butter, or any dried fruit and nut combo you like. If coconut isn’t your thing, just add more oats instead. The number of bars from this depends on how they’re cut; I made 15 rectangular bars.

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
½ cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup chopped pitted dates
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9x13x2-inch baking pan. Line the pan with parchment, making a parchment ‘sling’—leaving an inch or two of parchment overhang on the two longer sides of the pan. This will allow for easy removal of the granola bars after they’re baked by pulling the parchment and granola out of the pan together.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the wheat germ.

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 oatmeal mixture. Be sure to do this when the butter mixture and the oat mixture are both warm, for better binding. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet the palms of your hands and press, press, press the mixture evenly into the pan. Wet your hands again as they become sticky. Be sure to press with all of your force so that the bars become compact and will hold together.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before removing the sling from the pan and cutting into squares. Pack individually wrapped in parchment, plastic wrap, or waxed paper to take on the run, or on a trip.

Find a PDF of this recipe here.

(Visited 1,556 times, 1 visits today)

You May Also Like...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Janene says:

    So excited to open my email and find out what you are up to. I took the same trip that you did the following year (except with Micki) and I remember asking you what I needed to pack. You told me granola bars and peanut butter. What a life saver you were, even back at SMC. Safe travel, my friend.

  2. Erika says:

    I am sure your having a great time. Looking forward to hearing about your trip and pictures.

  3. Janet Moore says:

    Safe travel….been wanting to go myself, but Craig Corey tells me it isn’t safe….I should have gone with you guys cousin…hehe! Love the granola bars. Almost the same recipe as the granola I make…but haven’t packed it as bars. Just sprinkle it over my yogurt…yummm..
    Looking forward to notes and postcards about your trip.

  4. Rob says:


  5. Paula says:

    I wish you a safe and wonderful trip.
    I’m sure it’ll be magic!

    Looking forward to your stories and photos.

  6. Kristen English says:

    What a wonderful adventure for you and your family! Have fun!!!

    p.s. try coconut oil instead of butter 🙂

  7. Betsy says:

    Safe travels Abood girls!

  8. Stacy says:

    Loved reading this story! Brought back SO many memories of my Dad resisting my wishes to study abroad sophomore year with the St. Mary’s Rome program! That year abroad changed my life… Bellissimo!
    I remember meeting a group of people from the Ireland program, one guy in particular we became good friends with after their short weekend visit with us in Rome… sadly he was on that doomed Pan Am flight over Lockerbie… Just love the granola bar story and how they saved the day at the airport parking lot!! Have a wonderful and safe trip! Buon Viaggio!

  9. Alberta says:

    Granola looks great I just might have to try making it. So excited for the three of u to go to Lebanon ! Have a safe trip have fun, take lots of pictures. Love u all

  10. Roger Toomey says:

    Good luck on your trip and say HI to everyone in Lebanon for all of us.

    I kind of know how your parents felt to see you leave the first time. My eldest daughter (17 at the time) was in Israel at the time of the 9/11 attack. Fortunately, we were some of the first to get internet service so we had emails to keep us up to date. I printed all of them and put them in a notebook so maybe someday they will be a part of history as people can see what we were thinking at the time. Since nothing was flying they went on with their tour and only skipped Petra as that is in Jordan and their leader didn’t want to cross into an Arab country.

    If you are the same line of Aboods as the Nebraska line, the hometown is Deir Mimas which is as close to Syria and Israel as possible and still be in Lebanon. I’m talking walking distance to both. The Spanish have rebuilt the town after the last Israeli bombing of the south so I’m sure they would like to show it off.

    Looking forward to the pictures!

  11. Maria Bill says:

    Maureen, Just spoke to your brother and he told me about your upcoming trip. I hope you and your mother have a fabulous time as you go on this long awaited journey. I look forward to some amazing photos upon your return. Enjoy!

  12. Greg Carpenter says:

    Can’t wait to read about the new things you’ll see, hear, smell, touch and taste! Travel safe and live your trip to the fullest.

  13. Tom says:

    Have a great trip, Maureen. I’m sure it will be full of wonderful surprises, some of which we’ll hear about in this blog in due time.

    Many blessings,


  14. Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan says:

    I hope you have a magical trip with just the right amount of unexpected (but delightful) adventure. Safe travels! Can’t wait to read about it and see the photos.

  15. Karine Keldany says:

    Have fun and indulge. Bon voyage.

  16. Jody Namey Atty says:

    I’m with you…I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t gone for all those same reasons! Now my daughter wants to go & my fear is making me say “not now”. So, please, Maureen, have a safe and wonderful trip and I’ll be anxious to hear all the details.
    Love, Jody

  17. Diane Nassir (My maternal grandmother was an Abowd) says:

    As always, so totally lovely–safe travels Maureen

  18. Jerry Wakeen says:

    Yes, have a great trip. Another cousin just returned after visiting his mother for medical reasons, haven’t heard much but I am sure he had a good time (and you will have a helluva good time)!

    As for Granola bars, great for emergencies but Mackinaw Fudge has its merits too!

    Do fill us in on the route and details.
    best, Jerry

  19. Geralyn Lasher says:

    Okay, I am a bit less of a nervous nellie on this since Peggy will be with you, but BE CAREFUL please!

  20. Michael Ganz says:

    Safe travels Maureen,

    I’ll miss your morning emails… And photos.

    Can you Fedex a couple of those Granola bars?



  21. Uncle Dick says:

    Have a safe and fun trip sweetheart. I’ll be anxious to hear about it on your return. Love, UD

  22. allison F. Lange says:

    LOVE your blog today!!!!
    And, these look so YUMMY!!!!!
    Safe Travels & I hope you can stay in touch from Lebanon, so we all know what & how you are doing!!!!