I don’t think it’s much of a secret that I am a sucker for all things sweet involving oatmeal and fruit. There are few things I enjoy as much as chewy, nutty, wholesome bites of a granola bar with my afternoon cappuccino. Except for that one caveat: store-bought granola bars are either so loaded with fat and sugar they cover a grown man’s daily calorie intake requirements, or–and I’m pretty sure this is worse–they taste of sticky nothingness with a hint of artificial sweeteners.
Where are you, wholesome, good, guilt-free cereal bars that I can eat every day and claim to live a healthy Californian life? The answer, of course, lies in making the culinary treats existing in my head from scratch at home. And so I did.
Let me tell you that this is not the first time I embarked on the home-made cereal bar endeavor, and that the last time turned out considerably less satisfying. That is, with overly sweet dollops of Rice Krispies covered in honey that wouldn’t stick together. While N. ate the outcome of my previous attempts nonetheless, claiming it was delicious, I wouldn’t exactly say it qualified as cereal bars.
So off to a new attempt. If you’re going to be making cereal bars at home, you might as well opt for loading these things with everything good mother nature ever invented, like oatmeal, freeze dried strawberries, dates, almonds, bananas, unsweetened apple sauce, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Which sums up everything that went into these bars, which is amazing, because every baked good that does just fine without butter and sugar amazes me. Aren’t you amazed?
The verdict on these strawberry and date oatmeal bars is that they look amazing, and have a wonderfully chewy consistency that will keep you engaged throughout at least one cup of afternoon cappuccino. Next time, I might add some more berries and nuts, because they could be a little bit sweeter and more crunchy. Which isn’t the point of a healthy, chewy oatmeal bar, you say, to which I reply, yes, you’re right, of course, but I have peculiar tastes and demands and that’s that.
Finally then, you can go ahead and do all cutsey, girly, Martha Stewart things you’ve ever wanted to do with home-made oatmeal bars, like wrapping them in individual parchment paper wrappers, and photographing them amidst a random berry medley.
Oatmeal bars with strawberries
You’ll need this:
- 3 1/2 cups (410 g) oats
- 3/4 cup (100 g) roughly chopped almonds
- 0.6 oz (20 g) freeze dried strawberries
- 3 large, ripe bananas
- 2/3 cup (200 g) unsweetened applesauce
- 5 dates
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp salt
You’ll do this:
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.
- Line a 9- by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, letting parchment paper overlap the sides of the pan.
- Spread out oats and chopped almonds on a baking sheet. Lightly toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- In a medium bowl, mash bananas with back of a fork. Stir in applesauce.
- Transfer oats and almonds to a large bowl and stir in freeze dried strawberries, dates, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.
- Stir the banana mixture into the oat mixture until well combined. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and press down evenly.
- Bake until the bars are golden brown and starting to separate from sides of the pan, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
- Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Let cool to room temperature, then cut into bars.
- Serve or store in an airtight container.
I adapted this recipe from Cookin’ Canuck. Happy Monday!