Easy granola bars of oats, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, coconut oil, honey and pomegranate molasses.
I've been trying for awhile now to make granola bars, and these might be the easiest ones I've ever made. I don't know about you, but I find that the biggest challenge in making granola bars is getting them to stick together without loading up on syrups or fats that act as the glue. I've been reading some disturbing articles lately on the effects of sugar, and am determined this year to cut waaaay back.
We've all read that sugar is increasingly pointed to as the major culprit behind the country’s exploding obesity rates in both children and adults, and surging rates of childhood diabetes. Some scientists go so far as to say that sugar has poisoned our food supply, and labels it an environmental toxin that's altering our biology, compelling us to eat more and move less. Specifically, scientists have used imaging tests to show for the first time that fructose triggers brain changes that prevent signals being sent to the body letting us know that we're full. Without that feedback loop, we overeat. More experiments are being run, but I can tell you from personal experience I can eat an extra-large Milky Way bar, and want a second one immediately almost more than I wanted the first one. Especially the dark chocolate kind. Only guilt halts my feeding frenzy.
So why don't we just stop? It's not like we haven't known that sugar, or at least too much of it, is a bad thing. Turns out, it's not that easy. (Duh...) Tests have proven now that sugar consumption is similar to nicotine or alcohol addiction; kicking the sugar habit is extremely difficult. So several months ago, I started to shift my sugars, hoping this would be a step in the right direction, and not just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.
I substituted coconut palm sugar for brown sugar. Instead of white processed sugar, I shifted to agave. Then I read disturbing information on agave suggesting the labels should bear a skull and crossbones, and I moved to coconut nectar and honey. Truth is, it's hard to know the right thing to be eating. It's a moving target with new information emerging every week, and frankly I don't really understand all the ins and outs of sucrose, glucose, and fructose, other than the fact that they're naturally occurring in most fruits, vegetables and whole grains - all components of a reasonably well-balanced diet.
So over the next few months, I'm taking on a project to figure this out as best I, or any of us, can. Along the way, I'll share recipes I develop to help me shift my eating while continuing the mostly vegetarian focus. For the month of January, I'm going to start with root vegetables since they naturally have glucose. And there are so many fresh root vegetables to choose from in the store right now, it feels like a good place to begin. That's what's ahead for this month, and I hope you'll join me.
Meanwhile, this granola features a healthy combination of oats, sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts. The fat part of the glue that holds them together is peanut butter and coconut oil. The syrup is a combination of honey and pomegranate molasses. And I threw in some chocolate chips because it just sounded like a good idea. Chocolate is not all bad, after all, particularly if the chocolate is at least 70% cocoa content.
A Few Cooking Notes:
The secret to them holding together well is to keep them individually wrapped in the refrigerator. At room temp they begin to crumble.
If you're making them at higher altitudes, like 7000+ feet above sea level, you may need a little more glue to offset the dryness of the air.
I found that the best way to press them together before putting them into the refrigerator is to lay parchment paper on top of them, and press gently down with your hands.
- 1 ½ cups rolled oats
- 1 cup roasted sunflower kernels
- 1 cup pine nuts
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 3 cups rice crispies
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup dried apricots sliced thinly
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ¾ cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the oats, sunflower kernels, pine nuts, and pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine with the rice crispies, chocolate chips and dried fruit pieces. Toss together and place back on the baking sheet.
- In a small pot, combine the peanut butter, coconut oil, honey and pomegranate molasses and melt together. Stir to completely mix. Don't bring to a boil. Stir in the salt and cinnamon.
- Pour over the dried mixture and toss together to thoroughly coat.
- Place in the parchment lined baking dish. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and press gently to press the granola pieces together without breaking up the rice crispies.
- Place in the refrigerator overnight.
- Cut into pieces and serve.
- Wrap any uneaten pieces in plastic and keep in the refrigerator until ready for a healthy snack.