recipe, snack

Nuts for Coconut and Fruit Energy Bars!

Perhaps you know the feeling: that mild guilt that climbs up your throat like a case of heartburn when you buy those ridiculously miniature and expensive energy/granola bars in the ‘health’ and ‘organic’  food section. You know you can make healthier and more delicious bars at home, and you know they are overpriced, but it’s just so convenient to buy convenience foods!

I mean, we’re paying for the convenience of the food, right? But… Mr. Quaker is now rolling in his grave, because I have concocted a recipe for a quick-and-easy energy bar recipe that takes very little of your time (5 minutes prep, 20 minutes baking), is versatile to your tastes, and is significantly healthier than anything not made in a home kitchen. And they are delicious!

The most difficult thing about granola bars, I found, is getting them to stick together. You see, the more delicious ingredients you add, the crumblier the bars get. Solution? I added either one egg or 2 tbsp peanut butter to the recipe, because both of those ingredients can contribute to its self-adhesiveness. But you know, if you want to just grind all your dry ingredients in a food processor and then mix in the liquids, you may find it less crumbly when you go to cut them. I haven’t had a chance to test this method out, but I know that your end result will have less varying texture. I’ll let you play around with it. After all, that’s the beauty of homemade granola bars, you can really do whatever you want as long as you keep the dry-to-wet ratio.

Coconut, Fruit, and Nut Energy Bars

Ingredients:

– 1 cup large flake oats
– 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
– 1 tbsp coconut flour (or sub-in 2 tbsp whole wheat flour)
– 2/3 cup nuts (I used half raw cashews and half whole raw almonds)
– 1/4 cup dried cranberries
– 1/2 cup dried apricots (you are welcome to chop them, but I didn’t)
– 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used bitter-sweet, but you are welcome to use semi-sweet)
– 2 tbsp sesame seeds, divided
– 1/3 cup coconut oil (or butter, if you don’t have any coconut oil. Omit the salt if you are using salted butter)
– 1/2 cup maple syrup
– 1 medium-sized egg OR 2 tbsp peanut butter (sticking agent)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
–  1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper.
(optional step: roast your nuts in a baking sheet for about 8-10 minutes at 350F or until they become fragrant. Allow them to cool before mixing them with the other ingredients!)
2. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (oats, shredded coconut, flour, nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips)
3. Melt the coconut oil (or butter), and then stir in the maple syrup until well combined. Add vanilla extract and salt (if using). Whisk your egg in quickly (so it doesn’t cook and you end up with scrambled eggs in a butter/maple syrup sauce), and immediately do step 4.
4. Pour your liquid mixture over top of the dry mixture, and stir until everything is coated in the syrupy-goodness!
5. Press your mixture into the parchment-lined pan, pressing down with the back of a spoon or your fingers so it is well packed. Sprinkle your sesame seeds on top.
6. Bake 18-20 minutes or until they just begin to brown around the edges. They will still seem soft to the touch at this point, but they will firm up as they cool down. While they are still warm, press them into the pan again with a greased spatula to ensure they stick together even more.

Allow to cool completely, and then put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to facilitate cutting (and use a sharp knife!). They will be crumbly, but you can always use the remaining crumbs as granola topping on your morning yogurt! 🙂 Yum! Two recipes in one!

Store them in the fridge or freezer (so they hold their shape), and enjoy your healthy and delicious homemade bars!