Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thick and Chewy Cherry Almond Granola Bars

Granola is one of those foods that seems like a no-fail healthy option for breakfast or for a snack.  You've got plenty of fiber courtesy of wholesome oats, lots of good-for-you fruit, and heart healthy nuts like almonds.  It's a no brainer, right?

Wrong.  Oh my dear is it *usually* wrong.   A lot of processed granola that you'll find in the grocery store is swimming in sugar and yucky ingredients like high fructose corn syrup.  So much for a healthy  breakfast to get your day off to a great start.

While these bars do have some sugar in them (2/3 C for the whole pan), they have substantially less sugar than your average brand at Kroger and also use honey to add sweetness instead of just relying on granulated sugar.  And lord knows there isn't any high fructose corn syrup in these little guys.

Another favorite thing about this recipe is how infinitely adaptable it is.  You can use any fruit or nuts you like and can play around with using either almond or vanilla extract.  I used dried cherries, sliced almonds and then almond extract for my bars and have to admit that I thought they were a-mazing....even if I do say so myself :)  Put it this way...I took the pan of them up to my family's lake house one weekend not too long ago, and between just four of us we had polished off the whole pan in a day and a half.  Yikes!

My one gripe is that these were a bit crumbly and getting the sliced bars out of the pan was a bit of a cumbersome process.  Placing the pan in the fridge for a bit helped, but I still had to be very gentle with them.  Maybe next time I'll add a bit more peanut butter or honey to moisten them up even more and cut down on the crumbly texture.

The good news though...even if they crumbled to bits they still taste exactly the same.  And of course you could always completely forgo the bar route and just crumble these up into a bowl or sprinkle it on top of your favorite yogurt.

Dig in!  You won't regret making these.

Thick and Chewy Cherry Almond Granola Bars adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Printable Version
1 2/3 C quick cooking rolled oats
2/3 C sugar (I used brown sugar)
1/3 C oat flour (made by putting 1/3 C oats in food processor and processing until finely ground)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2-3 C dried fruit and nuts of your choice (I used dried cherries and sliced almonds)
1/3 C peanut butter (could use almond butter)
1 tsp almond extract (or vanilla)
6 Tbsp melted butter
1/4 C plus 2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water

*This recipe is pretty much infinitely adaptable.  You can use any fruit and nut combination you like, you can choose your butter (peanut or almond) and you can also decide what flavor extract you want to use.  Get creative and come up with your own combo you'll love!

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 8x8x2 pan with parchment paper and lightly grease.

Stir together all dry ingredients, including fruit and nuts.  In separate bowl stir together almond extract, butter, honey, water and peanut butter.

Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir until crumbly and evenly combined.  Pour mixture into prepared pan and use fingers to press ingredients down evenly.

Gooey goodness....

Bake bars 30-40 minutes or until slightly golden on top.  The golden brown gives it great flavor!

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool.  Use knife to cut granola into even bars.  If granola is still too crumbly, place pan in fridge for 30 minutes to set.

Store bars in airtight container.  These also freeze very well.

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