We are a week into 2014 and the health regimens are still in full force for many of us. While I do admire the folks who are sticking to their resolutions, there are pros and cons that go along with that. Con, my yoga classes are as overstuffed as my yoga pants. Pro, the wait at my new favorite deep dish Chicago-style pizza joint is basically nonexistent. Pro, I’ve pinned a number of veggie recipes that look tasty and satisfying. Con, the produce aisles of Berkeley Bowl are almost un-navigable.
In keeping with a healthier-ish eating goal of 2014, I decided to bake up something with more health benefits and a little less fat. I enjoy granola bars because they can fool you into thinking you are eating a candy bar or cookie. It kinda feels like you are getting away with something and you are cheating the system. Many prepackaged granola bars are basically candy bars, so I decided to make my own vegan and gluten free version, packed with healthy energy boosting benefits. I don’t usually do vegan or gluten free, but I’ve got to admit I love these granola bars! They are super crave-able. I don’t miss the butter or gluten and I don’t feel guilty eating one after sweating my buns off at hot yoga. If you really don’t trust that something vegan and gluten free can actually taste amazing, you can always sub in butter for the coconut oil and use regular ol’ rolled oats. But, it is a new year so maybe you should try something new (it just might surprise the cacao nibs out of you).
Here are a few of the benefits of these tasty and satisfying vegan gluten free granola bars.
Almonds full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that bolsters the immune system.
Cacao Nibs are full of magnesium, fiber and iron. All good things.
Cherries contain Vitamins A and C, nice. And, copper, which apparently helps keep our tissues strong. Hmm.
Gluten Free Rolled Oats from Bob’s Red Mill help lower blood pressure, help with weight control, are healthy for our tickers and are they are full of fiber. Bob’s is unbeatable!
Flax Seeds from Bob’s Red Mill, an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and rich in dietary fiber. Also heart healthy. Yes, please!
Honey is a natural energy and immunity booster. Technically, honey is not considered vegan because it exploits bees. The honey can easily be substituted with agave nectar, molasses or Lyle’s Golden Syrup.
I am not saying these granola bars are the healthiest things on earth but, they sure are easier on the waistline than a handful of cookies.
Once I started pulling the ingredients for these granola bars I realized I was out of brown sugar! Eeek. Instead of dropping everything and running to the store for a bag of sugar, I made it myself. Here is a quick recipe for making brown sugar, it honestly couldn’t be easier. I might just start making my own brown sugar all of the time!
- Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats - 6 cups
- slivered almonds - 2 cups
- dried tart cherries - 1 cup
- cacao nibs - 3/4 cup
- flax seeds - 1/4 cup
- brown sugar - 1 cup
- coconut oil - 3/4 cup
- Lyle's Golden Syrup - 1/2 cup
- honey (agave nectar, molasses, maple syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup are suitable replacements) - 1/2 cup
- cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
- salt - 1 teaspoon
- almond extract (vanilla can be substituted) - 1 teaspoon
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Lightly toast the almonds for 8-10 minutes.
- Mix together the cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Melt the coconut oil on low heat in a small saucepan.
- In a large bowl, toss the oats with the melted coconut oil, cinnamon and salt. Spread the mixture out on 2 baking sheets and toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan twice and making sure they don't burn. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to 325°.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, Lyle's Golden Syrup and honey. Heat the mixture slowly, stirring until all combined and the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract (or vanilla).
- Toss together the toasted oats, almonds, flaxseeds, cherries and cacao nibs in a large mixing bowl. Slowly pour in the warm syrup mixture, stirring as you pour. Toss the mixture to fully incorporate the syrup.
- Line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly press the mixture into the pan. Cover the pan with another sheet of parchment paper and use it to smooth out the mixture, then gently press another baking sheet onto the parchment paper and press down evenly to ensure the bars are uniformly pressed.
- Once even and smooth, remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper.
- Bake the pan for about 20-25 minutes for chewy granola bars or 25-30 minutes for crunchier granola bars. Rotate the pan halfway through.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Using the edges of the parchment, lift the entire sheet of granola from the pan.
- Cut 8 strips length wise by 4 strips wide. I found the granola was easier to cut when it was still a bit warm and pliable.
- * If you do not eat honey, agave nectar, molasses, maple syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup are a suitable substitute.
- *If you don't care to go vegan and/or gluten free on this recipe, you can always sub in butter for the coconut oil and use regular rolled oats.