Friday, April 27, 2012

The Best Healthy Granola Bars


I love granola bars, because they are such an easy snack when I am hungry, but most of the granola bars that you find in the grocery store are full of sugar, or have dairy added (which Madeline can't have), or peanuts (again which Madeline can't have). Since Madeline can have tree nuts, there are a few "energy" bars that she can have such as Lara Bars. And they are great, but sometimes I want more than just fruit and nuts. Sometimes I want the oats and bran and seeds and other fruits. This recipe that I came up with is a take on a granola bar that the Four Seasons Hotel here in Austin makes (my sister used to work for them in the Pastry Kitchen). Their recipe uses a lot of sugar, corn syrup, and peanut butter which I wanted to cut from the recipe, and after a few trials, I think I came up with the perfect chewy granola bar. My recipe has almonds and almond butter, but you could easily sub in seeds for the almonds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, etc) and use sunbutter for the almond butter (sunbutter is nut free and made with sunflower seeds) to make them completely dairy and nut free.


Each recipe makes appx. 14 bars that measure 1" by 4.5", and while some of the ingredients are expensive, I am sure these bars are cheaper to make in the end compared the price of the some of those healthy granola bars you can find. Give them a try and let me know if they are not just the best healthy chewy granola bar.

Chewy Granola Bars:

1 cup bran flakes
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup finely shredded dried coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
4 TBSP Ground Flax seed
2 TBSP unsalted raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried fruit of your choice chopped up into small pieces (I used apricots, figs, and cranberries)

For the binder you will need:

1 cup dried apricots
14 dried dates seeds removed
1 1/8 cup almond butter
1/2 cup agave nectar
Zest of one orange

First you will want to toast the dry ingredients (coconut, bran, oats, almonds, flax seed, pumpkin seeds) in the oven at 350 F for about 5-10 minutes turning the ingredients every several minutes until the coconut is toasted and golden brown (that will be the first one you can see toasting and you don't want to over toast it). Next combine the toasted ingredients with the chopped dried fruit and stir to combine.

Now you will need a food processor to process the dates, apricots, and agave until the fruit is as pulverized as your processor will let you get it. My food processor started to stick when the mixture was well blended and I figured that was the best I could get it, and it turned out just perfect.  Next turn out the fruit mixture into a pan and add the almond butter and orange zest and cook until the mixture
softens a little and is easier to stir. About 4-5 minutes on medium low heat. Pour the fruit and almond butter mixture out into the bowl of dried ingredients and using a spoon stir to coat. I ended up having to use my hands to get it all incorporated. Then press the mixture out on a sheet pan lined with a silpat or parchment paper and form into a big rectangle about 1" thick. Make sure to really compress the mixture so that it all sticks together. Let them cool and then cut into bars or squares and wrap individually until you are ready to eat them.

Like I said before, this recipe can easily be altered to incorporate your favorite fruit or nuts, and can also be made nut free with use of sunbutter and a seed mixture instead of the almond butter and almonds. Do you have a favorite granola bar recipe that I should try?

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