Jan 262011

As some of you may know, Monday was my first day of school!  I started NYU’s clinical nutrition program, and since I’m doing school part-time and working full-time, I decided I needed some healthy on-the-go snacks. So I decided to make some energy packed, high fiber granola bars…

Here’s what went into them:  Oats, wheat germ, flax seed, almonds, high fiber cereal, coconut, dried cranberries, apricots, honey, and vanilla.

 You start by toasting the oats, almonds, and coconut.  My kitchen smelled amazing, like toasting coconut.  Things seemed to be going great so far…

 Then you press it all into the pan to bake.  Looking good? So you think…

Ok so here is where things started to head a bit downhill.  As I cut the granola bars, they started to crumble.  I’m not sure if I over toasted the ingredients so they were to crispy, or cut back on the sugar (glue) too much so they didn’t stick.  That being said…the flavor was amazing and the crunchiness was something I had never achieved when actually intending to make granola.

Soooo, the bars that were completely unsalvageable were crumbled into the tastiest granola I’ve ever made.  I’m not sure what I’m telling you to do with this recipe…have a go at the bars (which Ina and Deb from Smitten Kitchen seemed to have better luck with) or just make it into granola.  To each his own, but either way it’ll taste great!

 Nutritional Highlights:  Flaxseeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fat so it provides similar benefits as eating fish like anti-inflammatory effects, promotes bone health, and protects against cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  Other powerhouses in this recipe include oats (fiber), wheat germ (heart health), almonds (protein), and high fiber cereal (more fiber).  And the dried fruit–have to admit it’s not as healthy as fresh fruit since many of the water soluble vitamins are diminished when the fruit is “dried” and the sugars become more concentrated so it’s higher calories.  BUT, it’s still a great source of fiber and a much more natural way to get your sweetness fill than most other options. Overall, these bars are relatively low in calories and fat, and will give you tons of energy, fiber, and fill you up for your first day of school (or whatever).

Apricot-Cranberry-Almond Granola Bars:
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Ina Garten

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2/3 cup honey (I cut to less than 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup dried fruit, or a mix of dried fruit (I used chopped apricots, cranberries and raisins)

(I also added 1 cup Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal, and 1/4 cup toasted flax seed…might have contributed to the crumbliness but definitely upped the healthy factor)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

While the mixture is still warm, stir in the honey, vanilla and salt until the mixture is well coated, then the dried fruit. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish andpress, press, press it in (wet fingers and/or a silicon spatula work great for this) until the mixture is packed as tightly as possible.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares — your best serrated knife is great for this.

You can store these in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two, as you would cookies, however, I prefer to store mine in the freezer. I find that they stay the most crisp this way as all granola tends to soften at room temperature after a day or more.

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