While I've made Smitten Kitchen's granola before (and loved it), I decided to try my hand at a take on granola bars. I don't know about you, but chewy granola bars are probably one of my favorite snacks, as both a kid and an adult. Though I've since graduated from Quaker Chewy bars to something closer to Kind Snacks, something still feels super right about a hearty, oat-y square of dried fruit and nut deliciousness. Enter these almond date granola bars.
Perfect for breakfast on-the-go (which is something I try to avoid, but hey, life) or an anytime snack, these bars are sweet and filling without giving me a toothache or feeling over the top. And healthy, too.
For this recipe, you'll need:
1 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
I call the extract optional (even though I used it) because it really does pack an intense almond flavor. While I'm a huge fan of almond in general, I found it to be a little overpowering in terms of a first-meal-of-the-day food. But to each their own.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together your dates, oats, flour, almonds, salt and cinnamon. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk your almond butter, olive oil, honey, orange zest and almond extract. Slowly pour your wet mixture over the dry ingredients and fold together with a rubber spatula until evenly mixed. Spread your granola batter into the prepared pan and press into all sides and corners until evenly distributed.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they're slightly brown around the edges. Don't wait for them to get fully browned on top, as this will result in a crunchier, Nature-Valley-esque bar (which there's a time and place for, but this isn't it). Truthfully, when you take them out of the oven even at 25 minutes, they will still seem slightly underdone (and will still seem soft), but they'll firm up once they are completely cool.
Cool the bars completely in the pan and then cut into squares. These will work great individually wrapped for easy access and even freeze well for a future snack or a breakfast that defrosts in transit. Happy trails!