Most of our friends (with and without children) are always looking for healthy, portable, easy to assemble snacks. When I was pregnant with Emma, I was looking for the same. I ate many All Bran bars, blueberries, Babybel cheeses and baby cut carrots, and although it satisfied my need to eat constantly, I would have been happier to have a bit more variety.
I posted a granola recipe awhile back that is incredibly popular in our household and thought would be a great addition to our snack repertoire, but it is not exactly the neatest snack to eat unless you’re at a table, with some milk or yogurt in a bowl. Then, Emma had a playdate not too long ago where her friend’s mum brought some granola bars she made with her son. I tend to avoid granola bars mostly because the store-bought ones are usually loaded with sugar and nuts. But these were so delicious, loaded with so many healthy ingredients. Emma loved them. In fact, she enjoyed them so much, she asked for more of them after her friend left — and continued to ask about them for days afterward.
When thinking about what we (ok, I) would like best in a granola bar, I came up with a long list – chewy, but a little crispy, not too sweet, no nuts (for Emma’s sake), no butter, have dried fruit but preferably no raisins (although admittedly, you can use them if you so desire), and include some seeds. After a little poking around, it was clear that many recipes contain peanut butter or some sort of nut butter to help bind together the ingredients, which I was hoping to avoid. So, using my trusty granola recipe as a starting point and Dinner With Julie’s chewy granola bar recipe, I was on my way.
I’ve made this recipe at least half a dozen times in the past two weeks and after a few tweaks, it’s now at a point where we’ve found the right formula. (Update: May 2012 – Many batches of granola bars have brought us to a new combination – reducing the cranberries slightly and adding chocolate chips. Also, eliminating the canola oil and adding coconut oil instead. Indescribably delicious!)
Chewy Cranberry Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
inspired by: Dinner With Julie’s Chewy Granola Bars and my Apricot and Raisin Granola
(makes one 8-inch square pan)
- 2 cups rolled oats (quick rolled oats are fine)
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- scant 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar (if using vanilla extract, just add this when you’re mixing the wet ingredients later)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup dried organic cranberries (from what I’ve found these tend to be sweetened with apple juice rather than sugar)
- 1/2 cup raw, hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds (if you buy these raw, you can always toast them yourself in the oven in advance, just make sure they are hulled)
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup canola oil (Update: skip the canola oil and instead use a tablespoon or two of unrefined virgin coconut oil)
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup honey
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some extra on the sides so you can easily lift out the granola bars when cooled. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Mix together the oats, flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, cranberries, chocolate chips and seeds in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, maple syrup and honey and then pour it over the dry ingredients. Mix well until the dry ingredients are all moistened.
Turn the oat mixture into your prepared pan and spread it evenly using a spatula. Wet a spoon and using the back of the spoon, press the mixture firmly into the pan.
Bake for 20-30 minutes (20 min for very chewy, 25 for a little crispy and 30 min for crunchy). Remove from oven and cool in pan. Once completely cooled, cut into bars/squares. They keep well at room temperature in an air-tight container. If they go too soft for your liking, you can leave a little opening in your container overnight. It should help.
Tips and Suggestions:
- Feel free to substitute whatever dried fruit strikes your fancy. We’re trying apricots and dates next.
- Try to be patient before cutting into the bars. If you cut them too soon, they’ll crumble apart. Not to worry though – all is not lost – it just means you’ll have some delicious granola to have over your yogurt in the morning.
WOW! Homemade snack bars! I like that and I usually take one with me to school! Homemade ones are usually more healthy than products from supermarkets because they contain less sugar and salt. Good job!
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Hope you like it!
These are so yummy! Julian and I are going to make some on Tuesday for our sing-along pot luck party!