School is in session and that means busy families may be in need of a few meal solutions that fit into their schedules — particularly items to grab on the way to school or work. Granola bars often fit the bill as nutritious options in portable packages. While store-bought granola bars are convenient, they tend to be made with nuts or oats, which are not ideal for those with food allergies or intolerances.
People can easily whip up homemade granola bars that are chock-full of vitamins and minerals and can be customized to food preferences and tastes. This recipe for “Nut-Free Granola Bars” from “Eat What You Want” (Ten Speed Press) by Danielle Walker can be enhanced with raisins, chocolate chips or dried fruits.
Nut-Free Granola Bars
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1⁄3 cup light-colored raw honey
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened sunflower seed butter
3⁄4 cup raw pepitas
3⁄4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄4 cup chocolate chips, raisins, or dried fruit pieces
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease the short sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish or rimmed baking sheet with ghee or coconut oil. Line the bottom and long sides of the pan with parchment paper so the ends hang over the sides.
Whisk the warm water and chia seeds in a small bowl and set aside.
Melt the honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until a candy thermometer reads 225 F. Stir in the oil and sunflower seed butter and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Place the pepitas and sunflower seeds in a food processor and pulse once or twice until coarsely chopped. Add the coconut flakes, sesame seeds, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and pulse a few more times, until coarsely chopped and incorporated. Add the chia mixture and the honey mixture and stir by hand until just combined. Immediately spread the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Place a piece of parchment paper on top and use a flat-bottomed measuring cup to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Remove the top piece of parchment and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then transfer the pan to the freezer for 1 hour, until set.
Remove the pan from the freezer and lift the parchment flaps to remove the slab from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 rectangular bars. Serve the bars chilled.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 6 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight.