Granola bars tend fall into two major categories. One type is mostly nuts – chunky and barely held together. The other type is more like a candy bar – sweet and sometimes full of chocolate. Neither is my favorite because I really want a granola bar that is lighter than the nut bar and healthier than the candy bar, so I definitely prefer to make my own granola bars at home. It gives me complete freedom to customize the bar to suit my tastes. Plus, it’s very easy to do and the bars always taste much fresher than the prepackaged kind.
This granola bar recipe starts with a combination of rolled oats and puffed rice cereal. I love the flavor of the oats, but I really enjoy the way that the rice keeps the bar from feeling too heavy or dense. Oats can be filling, but these two components alone are not nearly enough to make a snack that will sustain an appetite for long. I boosted the protein in the bars with ground flaxseed and almond meal. The former is easiest to digest in a ground form and, as for the latter, I just don’t care to have large chunks of nuts in my granola bars (especially because big nuts make the bars harder to cut neatly).
For sweetness, I added in some brown sugar, and got a big boost of flavor from vanilla, shredded coconut and dried cranberries. I think that some sugar is necessary, as I do enjoy some sweetness in granola bars (these certainly aren’t too sweet), but feel free to play around with the amount to target your tastes. Likewise, the cranberries and coconut can be subsituted for similar ingerdients, and you can mix in some spices to give the bars more variety.
The result? A very tasty granola bar that is high enough in protein to keep you feeling satisfied for far longer than something candy-ish. That said, you might still have to exercise some self control when eating these. Filling or not, they do taste good and it’s hard to eat just one. Wrap them individually and pack them in lunches, or stick them in the glove compartment of your car for long commutes.
Coconut, Almond Cranberry Granola Bars
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used quick-cooking oats)
1 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal (e.g. Rice Krispies)
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries
Line a 9×9″ square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, lightly greased.
In a large bowl, combine oats, rice krispies, almond meal, ground flaxseed and coconut.
In a small saucepan, combine corn syrup, brown sugar and vegetable oil. Bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and salt. Pour into oat mixture and stir until dry ingredients are evenly moistened. At this point it should look something like unbaked granola. Stir in dried cranberries.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and press down into an even layer. Let stand until cool and set.
Cut into 16-20 bars with a sharp knife. Individually wrap in wax paper, if desired. Store in an airtight container.