Lately, I am increasingly careful to have food ready to eat right after my early morning spin or strength training class. Just a banana or apple won’t do, and I’m too impatient to wait for a protein shake. Often I have errands to run on the way home from my gym and if I don’t have something nourishing and filling to eat, I get so hungry that I am tempted to go for anything in sight, healthful or not.
Enter my quest for a wonderful homemade bar.
I’ve never been a protein or granola bar person, and I don’t buy ready made snacks like these because when I look at the list of ingredients, I might just as well eat a dark chocolate covered Snickers. But you know that I LOVE my granola!
So, I started in pursuit of the perfect bar with my Granola recipe…and there are countless formulas in cyberspace and cookbooks that use nut butters and fruit mush to bind the granola and make oven-free bars. Nah, I’m afraid I’m just not that into nut butter plus fruit. To me that equals peanut butter and jelly. And I’m not enthralled with rice cereal or rice krispies as a filler either! And believe it or not, this is one place I forsake my chocolate obsession.
I envisioned something not too sugary and I tried many online recipes. To me, chopped dates + craisins + honey + brown sugar + coconut equals over-the-top sweet. I am happy with the recipe below, and have these in the freezer-ready for after morning workouts or hikes, late afternoon or just because. I think they are really really really good. Not a meal substitute, but a bar that keeps me energized and nourished while I wait for a “proper” meal.
On-The-Go Fruit/Nut/Grain Bars
Yields 16 2 x 2 inch bars
- 2 cups kamut flakes (If you can’t find these, old fashioned rolled oats are OK)
- 1 cup chopped pecans (1/4 inch )
- ¾ cup combo of pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds (raw), or just pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 cup raw wheat germ
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ½ Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes
- 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (California apricots are best for this)
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds for the top
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 9 or 10 x 10 inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper. Butter the top of the parchment (the part that will touch the raw bars).
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the kamut flakes, chopped pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ and place them on a flat, parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large metal mixing bowl. Note: some wheat germ you purchase might say “ toasted” in which case do not toast again, just add after the rest of this mix comes out of the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for one minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the prunes, apricots, and cherries and be sure everything is coated well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press everything evenly into the pan. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds and press in. Push down on the mixture in the pan so everything is tightly compacted.
Bake for 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Using a flat spatula, press down firmly all over the top to be sure the bars are again dense and compact. I do this a couple of times while it is still warmish. Cool for a total of two or three hours before cutting into squares.
Remove from pan to a cutting board by putting the cutting board over the edges of the sheet pan and flipping it upside down. This way the surface you cut will be perfectly flat. Use a long knife and cut into 16 squares. If there are any pieces that flake off, add them to your granola cereal.
I put the cut bars on a cutting board in the fridge overnight before recutting and wrapping each bar individually in waxed paper. Store in the freezer airtight for up to two months.
You can store these in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two, as you would cookies. I prefer to store mine in the freezer or refrigerator. I find that they stay crisper this way as all granola tends get softer at room temperature after a day or more.