In this installment of Cooking for your Health, the theme is brain food: Healthy high energy snack food that’s a perfect pick-me-up during the work or school day or following a workout, providing a nutritional boost of energy which improves concentration and stamina. A diet rich in iron, B vitamins, essential fatty acids and complex carbohydrates comprises a winning menu for your brain, increasing focus and memory. While nailing the nutrition may be easier to accomplish when preparing a sit-down meal, it’s often difficult to find in a snack when you are grabbing food on the go. What can you eat that’s portable, delicious and healthy? Look no further than these homemade granola bars.
The beauty of homemade granola bars is that you can pick and choose your ingredients, omitting excess sugars, fat and additives without sacrificing flavor. These granola bars are studded with dried fruit and nuts, including anti-oxidant rich blueberries and almonds, B-vitamin heavy lifters oats, coconut and wheat germ, and coconut oil which provides lauric acid, known for its anti-oxidant and antibacterial properties. Come to think about it, snacking never felt or tasted so good.
Homemade Granola Bars
Feel free to substitute the fruit with other dried fruit such as raisins, cherries, dates or figs to your taste. Walnuts may be used in place of the almonds. Recipe adapted from Ina Garten. Makes approximately 24 small bars.
2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1/2 cup raw wheat germ
3 tablespoons coconut oil or unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Butter a 9 inch by 12 inch (20 x 30 cm.) baking pan. Line with parchment and butter the parchment. Toss oats, almonds, coconut and wheat germ together in a bowl. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 300 F/150 C. Heat coconut oil, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pour over the oats, mixing to thoroughly combine. Stir in the dried fruit. Spread batter in the prepared pan, spreading to firmly and evenly distribute. Bake in oven until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove and cool completely in pan until firm, at least 2 hours. Cut into squares or rectangles. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.