One of my projects during quarantine has been clearing out my pantry. Trust me when I say my pantry needs A LOT of clearing out. So far I've managed to organize the food into sections, but my cereal and breakfast section was threatening a takeover. Why do I buy granola and dried fruit like it's the only thing I eat? Can someone answer me this question? I've been doing this for years and I've never seemed to learn that a person can only eat so much granola.
Thankfully I found a recipe for Mark Bittman's Fruit and Cereal Bars. I've made my fair share of homemade granola bars and they've all been ok. I suppose that's what I was expecting with these bars. Only they completely blew my mind. These dang bars are INCREDIBLE! I'd even go as far as to say THESE ARE THE BEST GRANOLA BARS EVER, homemade or in the store. I'm dead serious.
So I don't know if it was the granola I used, or the combination of fruit, or the ratio of the recipe, or what, but I'm for real when I tell you that YOU NEED TO MAKE THESE BARS!
I followed Bittman's recipe, using a lovely granola called Grandyoats Classic Granola(worth sourcing/not sponsored), full of really fresh and healthy organic non-GMO ingredients such as oats, honey, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, coconut, walnuts, cashews, wheat bran, and vanilla. It was fabulous and so fresh. Then I paired that with the required 1-1/2 cups dried fruit, mainly about 1 cup of dates, 3 or 4 dried apricots and 1/2 cup dried cherries. I think this was a magical combination of dried fruits so I'd do the same ratio again.
This is so simple and perfect for the summertime because this is a NO BAKE recipe. Simply blend up the fruit with the oil and honey and a little sea salt. Make sure it forms a very moist paste and mix it into the granola, pushing and packing it into the pan and refrigerate for about a half-hour.
THIS IS ME SCREAMING FROM A MOUNTAINTOP....PLEASE MAKE THESE BARS! Assuming that you use quality granola, as well as this combination of dried fruits, these are simply the best of the best. I ate two and a half in one sitting and had to stop myself from eating more. I could see myself making these every single week for a light breakfast and/or snack. They also make a really healthy dessert. I'm not kidding. They're so good they could pass for a dessert.
Ok, I've held out long enough. Back to the kitchen for another one.
Fruit and Cereal Bars
Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook
by Mark Bittman
Makes 10-12 bars
1-1/2 cups dried fruit*
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
fruit juice or water, as needed
a sprinkling of sea salt
1 cup ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, like granola
Optional: coconut, nuts, cocoa, etc, for sprinkling on top
Notes: I used the most wonderful new granola called Grandyoats classic granola. The granola was full of oats, seeds, and nuts and was probably the very best granola I've ever had - very fresh. I think the granola really made the difference in these bars. You can probably use any dried fruit, but I love dates so I used 1 cup of dates, about 3 dried apricots, and 1/2 cup dried cherries (also my favorite). This turned out to be a magical combination because these bars were incredible! Also, the sprinkling of sea salt helps to bring out all the flavors, so I feel like you really don't want to skip it!
Put the dried fruit, oil, and honey into a food processor or a blender and puree until smooth, adding fruit juice and/or water a little at a time to keep the machine running. You'll need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Add small amounts of water or fruit juice if the fruit is dried out and is not processing.).Put the puree into a large bowl and fold the cereal into it. You may want to use your hands at first and then use a spatula.
Line an 8- or 9- inch square or round pan with foil. Spread the mixture into the pan, pushing it into the corners and evening the top. If you like, dust the top with coconut, nuts, or cocoa. Refrigerate until set, then cut into bars.