feel-good no-bake granola bars

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If you need to get to know a person in one minute or less, the month of January has a handy personality quiz built right in, and it’s only one question long: What are your New Year’s resolutions? The range of replies I hear by asking this question fascinates me. Some smugly counter with, “My resolution is to not make resolutions, but to accept myself the way I am.” Others give you a single, all-encompassing (and frustratingly non-quantifiable) resolution like, “Practice mindfulness” or “Move more.” Then there are those whose faces light up when you ask and who proceed to tick off ten or twelve painstakingly specific goals while assuring you not to worry, they won’t bore you by naming all 62.

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I suppose that, on the Spectrum of Resolution Makers, I’m closer to the latter extreme. I like to give my resolutions structure. Within the framework of six distinct categories (from financial to relational to avocational), I plot out how best to use the new year to inch that much closer to being the most enlightened, well-rounded, and physically fit version of Claire I can be. It’s an exercise I look forward to each year (though I never waste time reviewing how I’ve met or not met the goals set out 365 days prior).

These granola bars were born out of that exercise.

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All of us have our weaknesses, and for me it’s the mid-morning snack. At school, the only sustenance within my reach at 10:00 AM  is an assortment of cookies and — when someone had a birthday or some extra time the night before — a sugary baked good. To combat these evils, I’ve resolved to bring a healthy homemade granola bar  with me to work every day. When searching for the perfect granola bar recipe for this endeavor, I knew simplicity and a very short ingredient list were key, and I hoped to avoid sugar and butter if possible. The following recipe fits all these criteria. With a batch of these to get me through the weeks (and the snack cravings), I have a feeling that 2015 will be a very good year.

healthy no-bake granola bars
Adapted from The Minimalist Baker

1 cup packed dates, pitted
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup creamy salted natural peanut butter
1 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Makes 8-10 bars

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Start by toasting the oats and chopped almonds for 12-15 minutes in the oven (350 degrees). While not absolutely necessary, I think this step adds a lot of flavor (and makes your kitchen smell oh-so-good).

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Meanwhile, tend to your dates! If you have a food processor, process those babies for about a minute, or until broken down into very small pieces. If you only have a blender like me, don’t worry. Chop the dates then pulse them for a minute or two. Place the date pieces in a large mixing bowl then add cranberries and the toasted oats and almonds.

granola bars

In a small saucepan, combine the peanut butter and honey and stir together over medium heat for a few minutes. Once the peanut butter mixture is sufficiently liquid-y, pour over the oats mixture and stir well. Make sure all those terrific ingredients are equally distributed throughout (note: pay special attention to those date chunks — they tend to clump!).

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Finally, pour the mixture into a parchment paper-lined pan and press down firmly until uniformly flattened. I used a bread loaf pan, but an 8×8 casserole dish or similarly-sized container would do, too. Place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to allow the bars to set.

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Remove mixture from the pan and cut into uniform bars. Follow your heart on what size and shape you’d like these fellas to be. I ended up cutting the bars pictured in half to make “granola bites” for easy snacking and packing, but do what feels right. The beauty of these bars are the infinite possibilities for customization. Are you vegan? Use agave or maple syrup instead of honey! Are you gluten free? Use GF oats! Are you a sweet tooth? Add chocolate chips! A beach babe? Toast up some coconut flakes and throw them in!

However you spice them or slice them, give these bars a chance to make 2015 your best year yet. Happy New Year!

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Carol hanko says:

    These look awesome……might have to give them a try!

  2. hbeelen says:

    I AM MAKING THESE IMMEDIATELY.
    Those almonds just look way too pretty not to.
    (also, small p.s. … oats ARE gluten free…)

  3. Carolyn says:

    Looks so yummy! And I have all the ingredients already! Can’t wait to make them. 🙂

  4. Eileen says:

    YES–I resolve to make these this weekend. YUM!

  5. Jan Fields says:

    Hi Helen,

    Here’s what a website called the kitchn says about oats:

    “The main problem with oats in gluten-free eating is contamination. Most commercial oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat, barley, and rye. The gluten in these ingredients can contaminate oats, and the nature of most gluten intolerances is that even a trace amount of gluten can cause severe discomfort. So that box of Quaker Oats? Probably not gluten-free.”

    Excited to hear how your amazing hike goes this year. Talk about your New Year’s resolution!

  6. Susie says:

    I made these bars yesterday, and they’re delicious! I have one suggestion for cutting up the dates….they quickly turned into a glue-like mass in my mini food processor. For the remaining dates that I used I cut them up into small pieces with kitchen shears. This worked really well. These are great as is but you could add other ingredients, nuts, flax, etc. too. Thanks!

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