What could be healthier than a granola bar, right? After all, a whole generation of health-conscious mammas are nick-named after granola! A quick glance at the list of ingredients on a box of granola bars, however, will make you rethink granola bars as a healthy snack. One popular brand boasts on the front of the box: “No High Fructose Corn Syrup.” Sure enough, it doesn’t have any! Instead, the bars contain: sugar, brown sugar, invert sugar, molasses, corn syrup and corn syrup solids (because that’s plain-old corn syrup, you understand. Not high fructose corn syrup). All in all, I counted some form of sugar mentioned 12 times in the list of ingredients! It’s time to reclaim granola bars, I think. Make your own starting with just three simple ingredients, then add your favorite dried fruit, nuts and seeds…healthy, all-natural granola bars that you can enjoy guilt-free!
I did a little experimenting in the kitchen, and found that you really don’t need many ingredients to make great homemade granola bars. Start with a simple base of oats, honey, and peanut butter (or a substitute like almond butter or sunflower seed butter). Then use your imagination to build your granola bar up with your favorite yummy, healthy ingredients. I used sunflower seeds, almonds, two kinds of raisins and some dried cranberries. But there are endless possibilities! What about diced dried apricots, ginger and lime zest? Or a tropical mixture of dried shredded coconut, mango and pineapple. Diced dried apples, raisins, and chopped pecans with a dash of cinnamon make a flavorful apple-pie bar. Or, satisfy your sweet tooth with fair-trade chocolate chips, peanuts and coconut. Just put your oats, nuts, seeds and fruit in a bowl. Then mix organic peanut butter and raw honey (or grade B organic maple syrup…I used a little of both) together in a different bowl, and stir them until they’re combined and creamy.
Drizzle the peanut butter and honey mixture over the oats and stir them together. Then, line a baking pan with parchment paper (not waxed paper…trust me. Parchment paper is the way to go.) Press the mixture over the paper until the bars are about 1/2 inch thick, pressing into the corners and making everything even and smooth. Chill them in the fridge for 1/2 hour, then bake them at 200 degrees for 1/2 hour. You can keep these raw, they actually taste great that way…but you’ll want to keep them chilled because they will be pretty sticky if you don’t bake them. Or, if you’re the patient type, you can put them in the food dehydrator overnight to remove the sticky.
Once your bars are ready, just pull the whole thing out by grabbing the parchment paper on both sides. Cut your bars into the shape and size you want, using a large knife (or a pizza wheel). Recycle the parchment paper by cutting it into rectangles and using it to wrap the bars! I found that by folding the paper around the bars and folding up the ends, the bars stayed wrapped tight enough to transport in a lunchbox. You won’t have enough paper to wrap all the bars, but that wasn’t a problem for us since my kids ate several of them before they could get wrapped! I can always count on my kids to help me out in the kitchen.
- 3 cups of organic oatmeal (I used gluten free)
- 1/2 cup organic peanut butter (or a substitute, like almond butter or sunflower seed butter)
- 1/2 cup raw honey, or grade B maple syrup, or 1/4 cup of each
- 1 cup seeds, nuts, or a combination (try pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts)
- 1 cup organic, unsweetened and sulfur-free dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cranberries, pumpkin, strawberries, kiwi, dates, figs etc.)
- Some good combinations:
- Apricot-ginger: 1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 tablespoon candied ginger, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 1 cup mixed seeds.
- Traditional: 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup almonds.
- Tropical: 1/2 cup grated coconut, 1/4 cup dried pineapple, 1/4 cup dried mango, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts, 1/4 cup ground flax seed.
- Apple-Pie: 1/2 cup chopped dried apple, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup flax seed, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- Dessert bar: 1/2 cup fair trade chocolate chips, 1/2 cup grated coconut, 1/2 cup peanuts, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seed.
- Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the fruit, nuts, seeds etc.
- In a separate bowl, combine the peanut butter (or substitute) and honey. Mix well, until combined and creamy.
- Drizzle the peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture, and stir until combined.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, letting the edges of the paper extend beyond the sides of the pan.
- Dump the granola mixture onto the parchment lined pan, and press the granola firmly down, in about a 1/2 inch thick layer. Smooth the top.
- Chill the bars for 1/2 hour in the fridge.
- Bake bars for 1/2 hour at 200 degrees (this step is optional, but will help your granola bars hold together and be less sticky. You can also cut them and put them in a food dehydrator over night, or just keep them chilled and eat them raw.)
- Allow the bars to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then lift them out using the edges of the parchment paper. Place on a cutting board and cut into bar shapes.
- Reuse the parchment paper to wrap the finished bars. To keep them fresh, store in an airtight container if you won’t be using them soon.
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What’s your favorite kind of granola bar?