vegan pineapple coconut granola bars


I'm always looking for ways to keep food in boxes out of my kitchen. It's not always easy because things like toaster pastries exist and sometimes a girl just needs something simple. But food that comes in a box, even if it is frosted cherry-pomegranate, is never going to be as good as food that, well, doesn't. Case in point, granola bars. Sure, a lot of them taste good, and there are even a lot of varieties out there that follow all the rules I'm down with and don't have a lot of ingredients that my brain can't comprehend. But even still, a lot of them often have extra binders or oils or added flavors that aren't exactly natural.

So after I've read a bunch of nutritional information, so much that my eyes are ready to fall out and the kid stocking the cereal aisle probably thinks I'm insane (he is right), I often ask myself: is this something I can live without? Well, probably, but granola bars sure are convenient. They have their own wrapper, they fit easily in a purse or a backpack, they have kept me from slapping an unsuspecting stranger when a sudden bought of hangry-ness strikes. They tend to have a good balance of protein and fiber, sometimes the occasional chocolate chip. We could probably all live without them, but who would want to?

Instead, let's make them better. Raisins and peanuts, you say? Girl, please. Pass the dried pineapple (no sugars or sulfites added, please!), let's toast some coconut and make the best granola bar you've ever had.***

***I'm actually zero percent hating on raisins and peanuts. The good thing about granola bars is they're so damn adaptable. Don't have something? Don't like something? We accept substitutions! The only thing you probably shouldn't mess with is the oats, unless you have a different grain in mind, or the nut butter/bee-free honee ratio. Otherwise, go nuts! Literally.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup whole almonds, roasted
1/4 cup dried pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup creamy almond butter
1/2 cup bee-free honee or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a large baking sheet, spread out your oats into an even, single layer. Toast for about 10 minutes, tossing slightly and rotating halfway through. After ten minutes, add your sliced almonds and coconut and toast for 3-5 minutes more.

While you're waiting, add your honee (or maple syrup) and almond butter to a small bowl. Microwave for about 30 seconds so they are slightly warmed. Whisk together until evenly combined. Add your vanilla extract and whisk once more.

When the oat-coconut-almond combo comes out of the oven, immediately transfer to a large bowl (if you don't, the ingredients will continue to toast and can possibly burn, specifically the coconut). Add your cinnamon and salt to the bowl and toss together. Fold in your whole almonds and pineapple chunks. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and fold together (a rubber spatula works best) until everything is evenly coated.

Line a square pan (9"x 9" or 8"x 8" will work) with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment with some nonstick coconut oil spray. Add the mixture to the pan and press down until evenly spread to all corners of the pan. If works best if you slightly dampen your fingers and work quickly to the edges.

Transfer back to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly browned at the edges. You don't want to wait until the bars are very browned or hardened as that will result in a reeeally crunchy granola bar once they cool. You know, the non-tooth-friendly kind.

So what do you think? Did you keep the recipe as is or did you swap something out? Cashews for almonds? Dried apricots for the pineapple? There's an endless number of combination possibilities if you're not the tropical type. And even if you are, try another kind next time!

More breakfast (and snack and food) type things, please.