Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nut and Dried Fruit Granola Bars

I love granola bars. Chewy, crunchy, salty, sweet. They come in all varieties to suit everyone's tastes. There are a lot of great kinds out there and there are also a few that aren't so good, using a bunch of unknown ingredients that result in something probably less healthy than a candy bar. Not that there's anything wrong with candy bars. It's just not necessarily what you want when you're looking for a healthy, filling snack. One easy way to know exactly what you're getting in your granola bar is to simply make your own. They are very simple to make and can be tailored to suit your own tastes. If you don't like hazelnuts, substitute almonds or walnuts. Apricots not your thing? Raisins or dried mangoes would also work out great. These granola bars are chewy with a bit of a crunch, mostly sweet with just a touch of saltiness. If you'd prefer them less sweet, cut back on the brown sugar. The agave syrup is a delicious sweetener made from the agave plant but honey would also work. These make a great snack as they're full of whole grains, nuts and fruit. Brown rice cereal is the best way to go but if you can't find it in your local grocery store (Whole Foods definitely carries it), any puffed rice cereal should work too.
Once they have cooked, let them cool entirely before cutting them. Even when they have cooled completely, they might fall apart a bit, which is ok. And try not to eat them all as you go and check to see whether or not they have cooled, as I was tempted to do. I did find that pulling a small piece off to eat was the best way of checking temperature. Quality control, I call it, or something like that. Once they have cooled enough to cut, place them in an air-tight container to stay fresh for as long as they last, which in my house might not be very long.

Nut and Dried Fruit Granola Bars
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, skins off
  • 1 cup agave syrup
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups brown rice cereal
  • 1 - 1.5 cups mixed dried fruit (I used half dried apricots, chopped, and half cranberries)
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Smash the hazelnuts with the back of a pan to break them into large chunks.
Spread the oats and hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, heat the agave syrup, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a slow boil, then remove from heat to let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sunflower seeds, rice cereal, mixed fruit, oats and hazelnuts.
Pour the agave mixture into the bowl and stir to coat.
Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Spread the granola mixture into an even layer, smoothing out the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Recipe adapted from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef
For a printable recipe click here

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