Homemade Granola Bars

Quick.  Easy.  Cheap.  Those three words, plus healthy?  Yes, please!  When we started a new food adventure with the boys earlier this year (more about that later), I needed a snack that was filling and of course, the kids would actually eat.  At first, I tried purchasing several different brands of gluten and dairy free granola bars.  While they did in fact have less preservatives and sugar; the price was ridiculous, the taste was lacking, and they were hard as bricks.  After some research, I found a great blog called Allergy Free Alaska.  Using her No Bake Granola Crispy Treat Bars recipe as a base, I was able to finally create a treat our entire family enjoys.  The best part?  In about 15 minutes, I can put together a healthier version of store-bought granola bars that will last my family of seven an entire week!  High in fiber and protein, and an excellent digestive aid; these little gems are ideal for breakfast on-the-go and pack up great in a lunch.  (Did I mention they taste amazing?)  Once you get the hang of making these, their flexibility allows for dried fruits and nuts in any combination.  Have fun experimenting!

Homemade Granola Bars

• 4 cups quick cooking oats
• 2 cups rice crispies
• 4 Tbsp. black chia seeds
• 4 Tbsp. white chia seeds
• 4 – 5 Tbsp. ground flax seed
• 5 Tbsp. crushed pumpkin seeds
• 5 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
• ½ cup finely shredded coconut
• ½ tsp. cinnamon or to taste
• Dash of salt
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• 1 cup honey
• 1 cup almond butter or peanut butter (sometimes I use a half cup of each)
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 – 4 Tbsp. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips)
• 11 x 17 jelly roll pan
• Wax paper

Pour all of the dry ingredients (minus brown sugar) into an extra large mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer).

Dump all the dry ingredients (minus brown sugar) into a mixing bowl.

Dump all the dry ingredients (minus brown sugar) into a mixing bowl.

Put honey, almond butter (or peanut butter), and brown sugar in a pot on the stove.  Turn the heat on to right under medium and stir for about 6 – 8 minutes.  (This allows the mixture to almost “caramelize” so the granola bars will hold together.)  MOST IMPORTANTLY…do not stop stirring or leave the pan unattended because it will burn really fast!  (I have found that peanut butter tends to brown quicker than almond butter.)

Take it off of the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Moving quickly, pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix evenly.  (This takes a few minutes.)  Drop globs of it all over a jelly roll pan and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.

Dump the mixture onto your jelly roll pan and add chocolate chips.

Dump the mixture onto your jelly roll pan and add chocolate chips.

Using a piece of wax paper (parchment paper works as well or even greasing your hand), press the contents down into the jelly roll pan evenly. The key is packing the granola bars super tight and really molding the sides into the shape of the pan!! 

Make sure and pack them tight working your way around the edges.

Make sure and pack them tight working your way around the edges.

Let sit for 2 hours or pop them into the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Flip the pan over onto a countertop or table (a cutting board will be necessary to protect surfaces unless you have a “special” table like mine) and cut to size.  (I use a pizza cutter or sharp knife.)

After freezing or allowing to sit for 2 hours, flip onto a flat surface and cut to size.

After freezing or allowing to sit for 2 hours, flip onto a flat surface and cut to size.

Store in an airtight container, small snack bags or gallon freezer bags in the pantry.  Enjoy!

Troubleshooting

1)  Mixture is dry and won’t hold shape.  This has happened to me when I’ve decided to use more dry ingredients (e.g., nuts, cereal, seeds). Make sure and increase the wet ingredients (more honey/almond or peanut butter), too or they will not stay together.  If you are at the mixing stage and realize it is too dry, try adding some honey.  I have also used a little coconut oil in place of honey.

2)  So sticky they fall a part. Adding too much liquid will make them too soft and not hold their shape.  If you decide to try coconut oil, I would start with just a tablespoon and increase from there.

3)  Too sweet.  In an attempt to use less sugar when I first started making these, I was substituting agave in place of the honey.  Through research, I do not recommend using agave any longer as it is very processed.  Coconut oil is an optional way of adding sweetness and decreasing the amount of sugar and honey.

It may take a few tries to “perfect” your granola bars but in the mean time, they will taste great no matter what they look like!

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