Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars
1.5 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 medium/large bananas)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if necessary)
1/2-3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped (I used 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pepita seeds (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup hulled hemp seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or fine grain sea salt, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a large rectangular baking dish (approx. 8.5" x 12.5") and line with a piece of parchment paper so the bars are easier to lift out.
In a large bowl, mash the banana until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
Place the rolled oats into a food processor (or blender on the lowest speed) and pulse until the oats are coarsely chopped (but still with lots of texture). Stir oats into the banana mixture.
Chop the walnuts and cherries and stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the banana-oat mixture until thoroughly combined.
Spoon mixture into prepared dish. Press down until compacted and smooth out with hands until even. Use a pastry roller to smooth out if desired.
Bake for 23-27 minutes (I baked for 25 mins.) until firm and lightly golden along the edge. Place dish on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then carefully slide a knife to loosen the ends and lift out. Place granola slab on a cooling rack for 10 minutes and then into the freezer for another 10 mins. (if you are impatient like me).
Slice into bars once they are cool.
Approximate nutritional info: (per bar, based on 14 large bars using 1/2 cup dried sweetened cherries): 186 calories, 8.7 grams fat, 22 grams carbs, 4.7 grams fibre, 6 grams sugar, 6.6 grams protein. Without dried cherries, bars have approx. 3.6 grams of sugar and 166 calories.
Pairs Well With
These lightly-sweet granola bars are a great option because they are only sweetened with bananas and sweetened dried fruit. No sugar crashes here!
Tips: To wrap these up for freezing, I wrapped the bars individually in parchment paper using 6-inch by 12-inch pieces of parchment. After wrapping up a bar, tie it with string or tape it to secure. Finally, place all of the bars into a freezer-safe zip lock bag, press out all the air, and then seal it shut. I will update this note when I know how long the bars last for, but I expect they will keep for over 1 month in the freezer. 2) These bars aren't super sweet, so if you prefer something sweeter you can always add a touch of sweetener. 3) I also expect these would be great with chopped dark chocolate added in!