Cherry & Coconut Granola Bars

By freshlyplanted - 8:25 AM

When Esther was first born, I joked to friends that I was surviving on the "cookie diet." And it was pretty true! When she woke up throughout the night I would grab her, then rub through the kitchen with my free hand grabbing a snack before we settled down to nurse. And what's delicious & easy to grab with one hand? A cookie, or two... or three. You get the idea. Then I remembered this sweet little recipe, simple enough for sleep-deprived me, and these replaced the cookies. Most of the time. Easy to make with kids, and especially great for cooking with toddlers because there's no "raw" ingredients if their hands make it to their mouth during the process.

You just need oatmeal, sweetened condensed milk, and some add-in's. If you avoid this recipe because of the sweetened condensed milk (like I did), compare it to the box of a regular box of granola bars and see what you think. There are also great tutorials for making your own sweetened condensed milk (including using coconut milk only), so those are possibilities too. No matter how you make them, just try them. Also, feel free to adjust the add-in's to clean out all the almost-empty's you have sitting around the pantry. It's a great way to use them up!


Cherry & Coconot Granola Bars

inspired by this recipe by Three Many Cooks/ Pamela Anderson
(they have a gluten-free version too)

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dried cherries or cherry craisins, roughly chopped
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 325F and place oven rack in the lower-middle. Grease a 9x9 baking pan with cooking spray. For easy removal, place a 9 by 18 inch strip of heavy-duty foil on pan bottom and up the two sides. Grease once more with cooking spray. 

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix together using a spoon or clean hands (especially fun for littles). Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Pat down until firmly packed by placing a piece of plastic wrap on top and pressing down (our favorite, so everyone can help) or with a spatula. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

Cool to room temperature and put pan in freezer. You might be tempted to skip this step, but don't. They magically transform in the freezer from a loose cookie to a granola bar. When bar is firm, remove from pan using foil handles and place on cutting board. Cut into 16 1x4 inch bars*. Can be stored for a week in an airtight container or frozen. 

*Sometimes I'll cut them into smaller squares and store them in a jar for easy nibbling. Perfect for tossing to hungry kids while you're waiting for the pasta water to boil (wink)

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