I think the thing I dislike the most about having kids in school is making lunches. I really dread it. I'm always struggling to come up with options that are new and fun but still provide a balanced meal. They don't get nearly enough time to eat so it has to be something that involved no prep. and is easy to get into (my daughter has a terrible time getting into fruit cups). Then of course I don't really want to be sending processed pre-packaged foods in my kids lunches because they are so filled with sugar and things I can't pronounce.
About a year ago I stopped buying granola bars from the grocery store. I could no longer bring myself to buy these snacks that had sugar as the second ingredient no matter how convenient they were. I had tried numerous 'healthy' granola bar products but my kids didn't like them. Then I started looking on Pinterest for help. There were lots of options, of course, but I wanted something fairly healthy, that my kids would actually eat and that was easy to make.
After a lot of testing of various recipes I came up with a granola bar version that works for me and my family. It's easy to make, you can substitute basically whatever you have on hand, and my kids love it!
Here's what you will need:
2 Cups of Oats
1/2 Cup of chopped Pecans (you could really use any nut)
1/2 Cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut
1/4 Cup Butter
1/3 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar (lightly packed)
1/2 tsp of Vanilla
1/4 tsp of Salt
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries (or any dried fruit)
1/4-1/3 Cup of Chocolate chips
Here's what you do:
Set your oven to 350 degrees.
While it's preheating line a baking sheet with tin foil. Measure out 2 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of pecans, and the 1/2 cup of coconut. Spread it out evenly on the baking sheet.
Bake this in the oven for about 5 minutes. I usually just keep an eye on it. when the coconut is just starting to turn golden I take it out.
Remove from oven.
Using the tin foil like a funnel pour the coco-oat-nut mixture into a medium sized mixing bowl and set aside.
While the dry ingredients are toasting you can add 1/4 cup of butter, 1/3 cup honey, 1/4 brown sugar, 1/2 tsp of vanilla, and 1/4 tsp of salt into a saucepan.
Over medium heat allow the butter to melt, stirring regularly until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Pour the melted honey-sugar mixture into the medium bowl containing the coco-oat-nut mixture.
Add in 1/2 cup of dried cranberries and mix to combine. I have also used apricots, and raisins here and they both work well. I personally love the chocolate cranberry combination so I usually end up making it this way ;).
Set bowl aside for a couple of minutes.
Take the tin foil you used to line your baking sheet and now re-use it to line a square baking pan. It's too big but that is perfect for creating little handles that hang over the edge of your pan. Lightly spray it with cooking spray.
Going back to your granola mixture, now add and stir in a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips. These will start to melt a bit.
Transfer the mixture into your lined and sprayed pan.
Take a length of parchment or waxed paper and firmly press the mixture into the pan. The more you press this in the better they will stay together.
Lift up the parchment and sprinkle a few more chocolate chips on the top. Then follow once again with the parchment and some pressure to make sure all those chips are pressed into the pan.
Leaving the parchment on while the pan chills in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Once chilled you can use your little tinfoil handles to remove the granola bar from the pan. The foil should then peel away from the bar easily and you can go ahead and cut them into your desired granola bar sizes.
I package these up into snack bags as I cut them up and then they at the ready for the dreaded packing of lunches.
Everyone in our house loves these Everyday Granola Bars. I hope you will too. If you decide to give these a try please Instagram your version and tag me @theeverydayjournalista. I would love to see :)