Back-to-School Granola Bars with Cacao and Cranberries

image (10)After a whirlwind of a summer, during which I finished planning the wedding I spent four months putting together, I officially became Mrs.Davison! (You can expect an extremely detailed recap of all the wedding goodness…as soon as all those beautiful pictures come in!) A few days after that, I came home to start my new job as an instructional mentor. So, if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been MIA as of late, that’s why. It’s exhausting keeping up with so many huge life changes.

photo (24)That being said, I am in full-on work mode at this point – the time of year when I spend half of the day on Sunday prepping lunches and snacks for the work week. There’s something grounding and comforting about this weekly routine of mine, especially when I can get Eric to keep me company while I cook.

photo (26)This recipe for naturally sweetened homemade granola bars has been a solid snack resource of mine for a couple of years now. These bars are versatile as there is room for adaptations when it comes to the add-ins. Coconut flakes, golden raisins and cardamom (instead of the cacao or cinnamon) is a stellar combo. So is dark chocolate bar pieces, sour cherries, and chopped pecans. I have a feeling my Ayurvedic guru, Nicole, would say these would also be an excellent vehicle for the super root, maca! The options are really limitless. It’s just that now that I’ve eaten my latest version, the recipe below, I don’t know if I’ll be in the mood to experiment for awhile. They’re that good.

Give them a try, change ’em up, and let me know what you came up with!

photo 2 (2)DIY Granola Bars with Cacao and Cranberries

Adapted from this recipe by Diana at My Humble Kitchen

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats, uncooked
*1 2/3 cups dried fruits and nuts (For this amazing combo, use: cranberries, chopped pecans, raw pumpkin seeds, golden flax seeds and mini-chocolate chips)
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder (or 2 tsp cinnamon or cardamom, depending on the flavor combo you’re creating)
1/2 tsp salt

*You need a total of 1 2/3 cups of extras, not exact totals of each, so be flexible and be creative! I simply take the 1 cup measuring cup and fill it up with a combo of goodies and then dump it into my dry ingredients bowl. I repeat a second time, filling the cup about 2/3 of the way full. It doesn’t have to be hard and fast – have fun with it!

Wet Ingredients:

1/3 cup raw honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil (heat slightly if it’s in a solid state)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and brush a 9×13 pan with coconut oil. Remember to grease those pesky corners too!

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3. Mix together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then add them to the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold in until all the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.

4. Press the granola bar mixture into the pan with your hands. This is a messy, not-so-easy process, but it’s worth it! It’s a little less sticky if you press with damp hands.

5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

This part is critical. When I follow these steps, exactly as written (thank you, Diana, for leading the way!), my granola bars come out beautifully. When left in the pan for too long at one of these stages though, I sometimes have to fight to get them to come out and have ended up with granola. So, take care at this stage.

6. Remove the granola bars from the oven and allow them to cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Then, when the timer goes off, loosen the edges with a spatula or knife.

7. Allow the bars to cool for another 15 minutes. Then, slice into bars and gently (this can be especially difficult with the first two or three bars until you have room to maneuver) transfer them onto a rack to cool completely.

8. When cool, store the granola bars in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper so they don’t stick.

9. Take them to work and enjoy a happy snack during the day or on your commute home!

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