Homemade Granola Bars

Everywhere we turn we hear about lessening the amount of sugar, salt, and oil in our diet. It’s not easy to find healthful substitutions, especially for packing in your lunch. I’ve scoured every grocery store granola bar box and just couldn’t seem to find one without the added sweeteners (like corn syrup or brown-rice syrup) as well as the artificial ingredients I can’t pronounce. So, the solution? Make your own of course! Involve your kids, it’s kind of like baking cookies, except much healthier. This homemade granola bar recipe is a definite winner to pack for lunch or enjoy as part of a healthy breakfast!

granolabarsWhen most people think of whole foods, they think of vegetal foods. And the often overlooked crown jewel of of whole, completely natural sweets is the Medjool date. Whether you are trying to lessen your intake of traditional sweeteners like sugar, or whether you’re looking for creative ways to prepare your old favorites, these dates are not only ideal to consume as is, they are also the ideal whole food to use in the preparation of this delicious and oh so nutritious home made granola bar. Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which typically grows in North Africa and the Middle East; but don’t try to plant your own, as it can take up to 20 years for a sprouted pit to yield a tree that actually bears fruit. Medjool dates only contain about 66 calories each which makes them an excellent source of fiber. They also contain essential minerals like potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese.

Cranberry Walnut Granola Bars

2 cups plain rolled oats
14 Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
juice of 3 oranges
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fruit-sweetened dried cranberries
½ cup honey
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 and spread the oats on a parchment lined baking sheet. (Th parchment is important, do not add any oil or spray to the baking sheet, remember when oil is heated it becomes toxic. For more on the dangers of heating oil and partial hydrogenation, see chapter 5 of my book.) Bake for about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Allow to cool and then transfer into a mixing bowl.

Combine dates and orange juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Pour into a blender or food processor with honey and emulsify until smooth and creamy. This is the base that holds the bars together.

Add wet mixture to the bowl of oats and pecans, dried cranberries and spices. Mix well.

Press mixture into a parchment lined baking pan about 8×8 and bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool before slicing into bars.

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