When I’m on my way out the door and need a quick, easy snack – preferably a snack that’s healthy and delicious – I often reach for a granola bar. I’ve been buying them for years and it seems silly now, but it never really occurred to me that I could make them myself, until I came across a recipe for homemade breakfast bars in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Lightbulb moment ensued.
I’m pretty particular and I often have something very specific in mind, so the concept of having exactly what I wanted was pretty appealing. (If you've ever had the "pleasure" of perusing my Christmas list this comes as no surprise.) I started experimenting with flavor and ingredient combinations and came up with Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars. My version mixes the traditional whole grains, dried fruit, and nuts with almond butter and whey powder to amp up the protein. The best part: they’re crazy delicious, like I could seriously eat a whole pan by myself, which probably defeats the purpose.
Definitely mix up a batch – it will take all of 15 minutes – and you'll see what I mean about these sweet, salty, fruity bars.
Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars (yield: 8 bars)
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries aka Craisins
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups Quaker Old-fashioned Oats
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon almond butter
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray the interior of an 8x8x2 inch pan or 9 inch pie plate with non-stick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Chop the dried apricots to 1/4 inch pieces and stir together with the cranberries, almonds, rolled oats, whole wheat flour, whey protein powder, kosher salt, and ginger in a medium bowl.
In a separate smaller mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract until evenly combined. Note: measuring olive oil first will make it easier to remove the almond butter and honey from the cup.
Pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until all the fruit, nuts, and oats are evenly coated. The granola mixture will be stiff, but should stick together. Add a touch more honey if the granola is too crumbly.
Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan and use a rubber spatula press the mixture into the pan in an even layer, don’t neglect the corners!
Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the top turns lightly golden. Cool the bars completely in the pan before turning out onto a cutting board. Slice the baked bars into squares.
Wrap the bars individually in plastic, or store in an airtight container with a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper between the layers.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used a 9” pie plate, one medium mixing bowl, one small mixing bowl, a small cutting board, a rubber spatula, chef’s knife, and measuring cup and spoons. Parchment paper will also be very helpful.
I tested an early version on some friends before I had the texture quite right, and even with a slightly unruly crumble to contend with the flavors came through as a winner. The mildly bitter almond acidity is balanced against the tang of the almonds and cranberries, and mellowed by the honey. The slightly salty finish adds just the right note and keeps these from being too sweet.