Granola bars are a fairly new departure for me.
I’ve always been a dedicated fan of mid-morning snacking. Many years of working behind a desk has given me a coffee and biscuit habit which I’ve found hard to break – apparently I need a boost of energy just to get me through to lunch!
The problem was the energy boost was always temporary, simply a sugar rush which left me in worse shape later on. At first, I tried cutting out the snacking all together, sometimes I’d get away with it, but more often than not I’d be miserable, shaky and lethargic.
I knew I needed something different, something that gave me fuel for my day, something loaded with balanced, healthy ingredients, not just a load of sugar …
Enter the world of tasty, filling granola bars (with a little bit of chocolate: it’s dark = healthy = good for you!)
My first attempt at a granola bar has turned into something which has become a staple in our daily eating. Over the last few months we’ve eaten a ridiculous number of these chewy, oaty, chocolatey delights and we’re still not bored of them!
The recipe begins, as all good granola bars should, with oats. Old fashioned porridge oats (otherwise known as rolled oats) are lightly toasted in the oven with some sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds. Oats are a great source of beta-glucans, a soluble fibre which helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a good source of magnesium. Although it’s a bit more work to pre-toast them, I’ve tried this recipe both ways and much prefer the subtle extra nutty flavour you get from toasting the seeds and oats first.
Andy tells me he likes the granola bars made either way, so take your pick!
After taking the seed mixture out of the oven I sprinkle it liberally with ground cinnamon. I love the taste of cinnamon and will happily add it to pretty much anything, the fact that it is another blood sugar stabilizer is just a bonus.
The binder (and sweetener) for these granola bars is a mixture of cashew butter, honey and a little dark chocolate. These are melted together gently in the microwave, along with a little coconut oil and vanilla extract for even more flavour. If you would prefer you could sprinkle the dark chocolate chips into the mixture before baking, but I like to melt them with the cashew butter, it makes a creamy, dreamy, spreadable mixture which lightly coats the rest of the ingredients and is impossible not to taste test! The cashew mixture is so moreish on it’s own that I’m playing with this mixture for other recipes, maybe some kind of fudge layer in a cupcake or brownie … or maybe just some fudge!
The coconut flakes give a lovely chewy texture and the toasted edges add a sweetness without being overwhelming on the coconut flavour. A super strong coconut taste doesn’t do much for me, but the subtle flavour in these granola bars tempts me like no other.
Once everything is evenly coated, the mixture is pressed into a lined pan and baked lightly. Cool in the tin, then cut into squares and enjoy.
Because these bars are only lightly baked they stay fairly soft and chewy rather than break-your-teeth crunchy, I don’t want to have to visit my dentist, nice though he is, every time I take a bite!
The best thing about this recipe is its flexibility, if you don’t like cranberries, try dried cherries or swap the sunflower seeds for whatever chopped nuts you prefer. Try crumbling the squares over yogurt and poached fruit for a change or simply add ice cold milk and enjoy!
- 2 cups (205g) rolled oats *
- ½ cup (75g) sunflower seeds
- ½ cup (75g) pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- Just under ⅓ cup (100g) honey
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup + 1 teaspoon (130g) cashew butter
- Just under ¼ cup (35g) dark (70%) chocolate chips
- Ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup (35g) dried cranberries - halved
- ¾ cup (30g) coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 (375F degrees). Line a 7 x 10 inch oven safe dish with baking parchment and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together the oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds until evenly mixed. Pour this mixture onto a baking sheet, spreading it out evenly before baking on the middle shelf for 10 mins, turning half way. Remove from the oven and while warm sprinkle liberally with ground cinnamon (the more the better!)
- In the now empty bowl, gently stir together the honey, coconut oil, vanilla, cashew butter and dark chocolate chips with a wooden spoon until combined. Microwave on short (5 - 10 second) blasts, stirring each time until the mixture is smooth & glossy and the chocolate has melted.
- Tip the warm oats into the nut butter mixture and add the dried cranberries, coconut flakes and chia seeds. Stir together until everything is evenly coated.
- Tip the mixture into the lined dish and press down well. Bake in the oven for another 12-13 minutes. Allow to cool in the dish on a cooling rack before slicing into squares.