Whole Foods has these ridiculous granola bars, which I’m sure you’ve seen, laying in wait near the check-out lines, just waiting for you to pass by, glance over, pick them up and think, “Well, granola bars. These must be healthy.” To which the granola bars snicker quietly to themselves and then guffaw all the way home, once safely buried in the bottom of your eco tote.
Because once you get those little suckers home, bite into the chewy goodness, it’s too late to realize that they’re not so healthy, one sign being your hands covered in grease from all the oil in there. I’m sorry to say it, but you’ve been had.
But, I’m fighting back, damnit. No granola bar will laugh at me without serious repercussions. I told myself that I can and will recreate the same delicious flavor without all that (or any, actually) oil. And so I did. The nice thing about these bars (besides how good they taste, that is) is that you can really mix it up flavor-wise. Substitute pecans for the almonds, or add dried cherries or apricots instead of cranberries. Dare I say it? Throw in some chocolate chips. Blow off the coconut if that’s not your bag, baby. Just keep it in the 2 cups range, give or take a 1/4 cup or so.
You can even fiddle with the sweetener part. Brown rice syrup can sometimes have a sort of chemically taste, so try it with more honey or use maple syrup or even sugar instead. I’m thinking peanut butter could be crazy good as well. As long as you keep the proportions the same (about 1 to 1-1/4 cups), you’re good.
Join the fight against unhealthy granola bar mockery. Make these bars. And you, my friends, will get the last laugh.
Nonstick spray (or 1 T butter)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2/3 cup (unsweetened) shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups unsweetened brown rice crispy cereal
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC. On a few sheet pans, spread out the sunflower seeds, almonds, pepitas, flax seed and coconut. Roast in the oven for about 5 minutes, stirring everything around once or twice to make sure nothing burns. When the coconut turns golden and you can smell the nuts, they’re done.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, honey, brown sugar, salt and vanilla. Bring to a bubble over medium heat and cook until it thickens up a bit, about 3 or 4 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the rice cereal, oats and dried cranberries. Mix in the roasted nuts and coconut, then pour the hot syrup over the mixture and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into a greased (with either spray or butter) 8″x8″ or 9″x12″ pan — depending on whether you like your bars super chunky or regular thickness. Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the top if you like. Firmly press the mixture into the pan with a piece of waxed paper, compacting it down to help keep it together. You can also line the pan with sprayed/buttered parchment or waxed paper first and use the overhang to press and wrap. This way, you can turn out the bars in one big piece for easier cutting (I’ll do this next time). Let the bars sit for at least 2-3 hours before cutting.