Saturday, August 29, 2020

Cranberry-Coconut Granola Bars

These Cranberry-Coconut Granola Bars are a delicious snack for after school and since the recipe serves a crowd its great for playdates or parties too!

While I am the first person to admit we have no clue what September is going to hold in terms of school, I do know that fall is around the corner and in some way shape or form kids will be in need of snacks. Depending on where you are, nuts of any kind are a no-go in the lunchbox, making many store-bought granola bars verboten. Those that are "school safe" can also be astronomically high in sugar, salt and fat - and since we all sit way more than we should (even those live wires you see bouncing off the walls), a healthier alternative is generally preferable.

Interestingly enough (for me at least) this recipe was one our school made for our Thanksgiving lunch's "dessert" last year. We always try to get the kids involved with an aspect of the holiday meals, and being the Home Ec teacher at least one class gets me to incorporate the recipe into the curriculum! Given that we were in a totally different mindset last year, it was so easy to make this with the kids, since there was no boiling the sugars or sharp implements involved. What they (and I) liked the best was pressing the mixture onto the sheet tray - them because they got to show off how strong they were, and me because it minimized my contact with the coconut (ironically, the only "nut" we are allowed at school I am allergic to!). Even though the students were pretty young (grades 1-3), the recipe also allowed us to get lessons on fractions, states of matter, food science and even history in without being forced to sit in front of a blackboard (did I just say blackboard? I must be showing my age!).

The bars were crunchy, but not hard, and if we hadn't been serving them at the lunch I would have wrapped them individually in foil so the students could have a portable snack for after school. With no oil, these are low in fat while being high in fibre, and while there is a good amount of sugar you could probably cut the granulated stuff down a little bit if you like. I wouldn't cut it too much because that sugar's melting and re-crystallizing is what helps the bars hold together and get crisp! The recipe is gluten-free as written as well, and easily veganized with ground flax for the egg and using maple syrup or agave (or more corn syrup) for the honey. Speaking of the corn syrup, this is not the HFCS that was a buzzword many years ago - this is your standard Karo, which while still invert sugar, is not the devil of the food industry. The corn syrup and honey maintain the "chew" of the bars, which was the only kind of granola bar I ever liked! In terms of add-ins, try dried cherries and pumpkin seeds, or dried blueberries and almonds (if allowed wherever you're eating the bars, of course!). The base recipe works for so many variations!
 
Cranberry-Coconut Granola Bars
Makes 16
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup honey 
2 tbsp corn syrup (or golden syrup, or maple syrup)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten free if desired)
1/3 cup oat flour (gluten free if desired)
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I used lower sugar), soaked in hot water and drained
  1. Heat the oven to 350F and line a small cookie sheet with parchment.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, honey, corn syrup, applesauce, egg and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Add the oats, oat flour, coconut and cranberries and mix to coat everything thoroughly (you may need to add a bit of water depending on the day and your oat thickness).
  4. Pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and with oiled (or gloved) hands, press down firmly into a single, solid layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and score into bars with a bench scraper or knife while still hot. Let cool completely on the trays.