Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hazelnut Asian Pear Granola Bars

I'm obsessed with making granola bars.  It all started with a mini temper tantrum I had when the Kashi granola bars I had bought were gone after only two days.  And Connor doesn't even eat them, so they were polished off by only two of us.  Tim and I both like to have something quick at work between meals, and Kashi brand seemed to be the healthiest choice when it came to granola bars.  At $3.99 for a box of six, it was getting ridiculously expensive. 

And so I turned to one of my favorite healthy recipe resources, Whole Grain Gourmet.  I found a recipe for coconut almond granola bars and did my usual subsitutions and the result was something pretty delicious.  It filled a 13x9 inch pan, so as you can imagine they bars lasted much longer than the Kashi bars did.  A bonus was that Connor loved them too, so I didn't have to buy as many of his school snacks that week as I usually did.

When you are buying the ingredients for this recipe, you will probably be swearing at me in your head because they are relatively expensive.  However, I have made this recipe three times and have not had to purchase any of the ingredients again, with the exception of other dried fruits and nuts so I could make them different each time.  The initial investment is definitely worth it in the long run.  If you are a healthy cook/baker like I am, chances are you already have some of these ingredients on hand.

What's really cool about this recipe is that you can substitute any dried fruit and nuts that you like.  The first time, I used almond and apricots just as the recipe calls for, but substitued half of them for dates.  The second time I used dried blueberries and pecans.  And this morning, I tried hazelnuts and dried Asian pears, which I didn't even know existed until I bumped into them at Wegmans yesterday in the dried fruit section.  The bars are somewhere between chewy and crispy and keep really well.  And the best thing is that you know exactly what is in them- which means no preservatives or artificial anything!  We really love the sesame seed in them, but you could certainly substitute another kind of seed.  I think I may try dark chocolate chip granola bars next time!

Enjoy the recipe, and if you try an interesting variation, let me know about it!

Hazelnut Asian Pear Granola Bars (based on a recipe from Whole Grain

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup 7-grain cereal (Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/2 cup oat bran  (I used wheat bran)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
  • 2/3 cup organic raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried Asian pears, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup shredded dried coconut (unsweetened)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lighly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with 1/2 tsp coconut oil.
  3. Place oats, 7-grain cereal, wheat bran, hazelnuts, and shredded dried coconut on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, stir up the mixture several times for even roasting. Mixture should take on a nice medium golden-brown tone. Do not allow it to burn(This actually only took about 10 minutes in my oven).
  4. During the last 7 minutes that the oat cereal mixture is roasting, combine the honey, 3 Tbsp coconut oil, vanilla, and salt in a large saucepan. Place over a medium-low heat for about 7 minutes. The honey should be hot enough to flow freely and combine with the oil.
  5. When you remove the cereal from the oven, reduce the heat to 300 degrees.
  6. Add the cereal mixture and sesame seeds to the honey and stir to combine. Add the minced apricots and mix well  (If you buy sesame seeds that are not already roasted, you can roast them with the cereal mixture above).
  7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Using a flat spatula, firmly press the mixture into the dish, ensuring an even distribution and level surface.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. When you remove the dish from the oven, slice the baked cereal into the size and number of bars you would like. Be careful to not crumble the bars as you slice. If necessary lightly press down with your spatula on any bars that need reshaping after the cut. The bars will be soft and crumbly while they are hot. Allow them to cool completely before attempting to remove from pan.