Cooking for your Health: Homemade Granola Bars

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.

Homemade Granola Bars

Makes approximately 24 small bars.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, such as chopped apricots, cranberries, blueberries, or raisins

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8 by 11-inch baking pan and line with parchment.
Combine the oats, almonds, coconut, and almond meal in a bowl. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly. Bake until fragrant and lightly toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and pour into a large bowl. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the sugar and syrup, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour the sugar over the oats, mixing to thoroughly combine. Stir in the dried fruit. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading to firmly and evenly distribute.
Transfer to the oven and bake 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.