Perfecting the Granola Bar

It’s been a bit of a journey trying to find the ultimate granola bar recipe for me. With the latest craze for coconut, all recipes now seem to incorporate coconut oil and shredded coconut. Unfortunately, yours truly has a serious aversion to all things coconut, and I can tell if something has the dreaded ingredient just by the smell.  As much as I wish I liked it, I can’t stand the stuff! And to all those who claim that coconut oil doesn’t smell or taste like coconut, it most definitely does 🙂

Even the bars that don’t contain coconut usually pack in the sugar to an alarming extent, so I’ve been tweaking different recipes for a while now in the hopes of hitting that perfect combo of ingredients that’s chewy, not tooth-achingly sweet, and even somewhat healthy. It’s not as easy as it might sound, but I do believe I’ve finally done it! The date-prune puree and dash of maple are the only source of sugar in here, and the puree also acts as the binding agent so no oil is needed.

And as daunting as the list of ingredients might seem, it’s more than ok to work with what’s lurking in your cupboards. You can use all dates instead of dates/prunes for the puree mixture, and certainly feel free to switch out the nuts and seeds. However, keep in mind that the fat content of the nuts and seeds makes a difference in the final texture. I’ve used almonds here (less fatty), but the addition of the pumpkin and sunflower seeds help the bar stay together. If I had used pecans or walnuts, I could have used less seeds. See where I’m going with that?

And while my current favorite is the dried cherry/crystallized ginger combo (love that tang of the unsweetened cherries!), there are certainly others that I’m sure are quite as tasty. Let me know what you come up with and enjoy!!

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Dried Cherry – Crystallized Ginger Bars (makes 10)

Ingredients

1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup prunes
1 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup dried cherries (unsweetened)
2 Tbsp. oat bran
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. hemp seeds
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
pinch salt
2 Tbsp. chopped crystallized ginger
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8″x8″ pan.
  2. Put dates and prunes in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until soft, about 10 min.
  3. Meanwhile, grind oats in a food processor until fine. Put into a large bowl.
  4. Add almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to the oats in the large bowl.
  5. Add dried cherries, oat bran, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and salt to the oat mixture. Stir to combine.
  6. When the dates and prunes are soft, drain and add to the food processor along with the crystallized ginger. Pulse until the mixture has become a puree.
  7. Add date puree to the oat mixture along with the maple, and stir with a wooden spoon until the puree has been incorporated into the oat mixture. At first it will just seem clumpy, but keep going and you’ll find that it will mix in nicely!
  8. Transfer to the prepared pan, and pat the mixture firmly down. If you leave the mixture loose in the pan, you’ll get some seriously crumbly bars! So use a bit of elbow grease 😉
  9. Bake for 20 min. until edges are golden brown.
  10. Cool in pan, and then cut into 10 bars.

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