Inspiration. It comes from the strangest places.
A couple of years ago I found a bootcamp to get myself in better shape. I didn’t know it at the time, but I met some amazing people who are supportive, fun, drama-free and most of all……… they push me to do better.
I have done things in the past year I never could’ve dreamed of doing a few years ago; A 5k run, a Spartan Sprint Race and starting this blog.
Three of the people I met are running a Spartan Super this weekend. While I’m not doing this race with them I wanted to do something to let them know I’m inspired by them, and happy they are in my world.
Food for the trip is the perfect thing. My first thought was cookies, but wanted to give them something more in line with the race. You know, a little bit health conscious and some unexpected fun! Thus, the Cranberry Almond bar seemed ideal.
When you make this you are going to be blown away at how easy they are to make, how inexpensive they are compared to buying premade protein/granola bars and quite honestly how fresh and tasty they are. They are crunchy because of the fresh nuts, but chewy because of the honey as the glue. Deliciousness at it’s finest!
I made my own almond meal by just throwing some almonds into my Cuisinart food processer and pulsing it until it was mealy. I found I liked the almond meal with a little more texture than finely ground when I was playing with the recipe. Mine looked like steel cut oats when finished; you could still see the nuts somewhat, not pureed to a flour.
I know a teaspoon of olive oil seems odd, but each time I left it out, the bars didn’t quite set-up the way I thought they should after baking. Mixed with the honey it gave the bars a nice even coverage and texture while still holding together well. (I’ve also used coconut oil when making these too. Either works fine, just use what you have— same goes for canola/corn/vegetable oil. )
The other thing I found with this recipe is that there has to be an item that is salted in the bars. In my opinion this is the perfect food; you get both a salty and sweet taste in every bite. (Yes, I’m a total girl….I need both tastes to make me happy!!)
While this recipe uses salted sunflower seeds I’m already playing with many options. Salted pecans, salted peanuts. This recipe is so easily made with whatever you have already in your pantry. You can customize the nuts and dried fruits to your preferences.
The biggest problem with these is you can’t keep them around. Anyone who sees them wants one, and they disappear before you know it.
Healthy Nut bar... copycat
- 1/4 cup Raw Almonds to make Almond Meal, instructions below
- 1 1/3 cup Raw Almonds roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup Sunflower Seeds salted
- 1/3 cup Honey
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil substitution ok- see notes
- 1.5 teaspoon Vanilla
- .5 teaspoon Orange Oil optional, adds a bright taste to the bars
- 2/3 cup dried cranberries roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 325º.
- Prepare 8X8 baking dish by lining it with parchment paper. You will eventually use the paper to lift the bars out evenly from the pan once finished baking so leave long pieces up over the edge of the pan to use as a handle later. (see notes about different sized pans)
- Place 1/4 cup of Raw Almonds in a Cuisinart Food Processor. Pulse for 2-3 minutes until mixture looks mealy, kind of like a steel cut oatmeal. You can still see that it is a nut, and its not a powder like flour.
- Set aside.
- Place the Roughly chopped Almonds (1 1/3 cup) and Salted Sunflower Seeds in a mixing bowl,
- Mix thoroughly.
- Add 1/3 cup Honey and 1 tablespoon olive oil to bowl and Mix these items completely.
- Then add vanilla and Orange Oil, mix well. ( Orange Oil---See notes)
- Lastly add the chopped dried cranberries and mix thoroughly. (adding the cranberries last doesn't allow for them to absorb all of the honey and oil and preserves the bold cranberry taste.)
- Press mixture into the bottom of your pan and tamp it down firmly.
- Bake at 325º for 15 minutes or until bars are set and lightly toasted.
- Let cool in pan for 15 minutes.
- Then remove bars from the pan using the parchment paper edges.
- Let cool completely.
- Cut into desired shapes and wrap in plastic or parchment for storage.
- I store them in the fridge so they stay fresher longer, but honestly I've never had them last in our house for more than a week.
1. I have an 8X8 pan, but Ive also done these in a 9X13 pan. It changes the thickness, so just watch them as they are baking so they don't over crisp. You want to have them remain somewhat chewy!
2. I use Olive oil or coconut oil depending on what I have. Any cooking oil such as canola, vegetable or corn oil would work. Just make sure it's a mild tasting oil. I wouldn't sub sesame oil, or a kalimata olive oil for example because that would be adding a very strong taste to your bars.
3. I love a brightness to my bars, so I added a drop of orange oil. If you don't have it it is still just as yummy. You can also use those amazing orange flavored dried cranberries if you have a Trader Joe's nearby. They add the same brightness.
This recipe is adapted from about 15 different people on Pinterest and a recipe on Better Homes and gardens!
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