School openings are just around the corner and I have been trying to organize my thoughts on what to pack in my boys’ lunch boxes that are both healthy and delicious. We enjoy eating a Mediterranean diet and these particular granola bars hit all the check marks- grains, nuts, and dried fruits. I try to stay away from prepackaged items as much as possible. When making these granola bars, I would encourage readers to purchase all natural and organic ingredients. I came across this recipe last year and my family absolutely loves them. What makes these granola bars unique is that they are stored in the freezer, making them a perfect, packable lunch item. By lunch time the bars are thawed and ready to be enjoyed by hungry people. They can also be customized to suit picky pallets. Cherries can be substituted for raisins or other types of dried fruits and the almonds for any other nuts that one might desire. I particularly enjoy the tart flavor of the cherries because they pair nicely with the dark chocolate. Ingredients 2 cups Organic old-fashioned oatmeal 1 cup organic sliced almonds 1 cup organic coconut flakes 3 tablespoons organic unsalted butter 2/3 cup of local honey ¼ cup organic brown sugar 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon kosher salt 1 ½ cup dried cherries 1/3 cup organic dark chocolate chips Instruction Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Place oats, almonds, and coconut on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly toasted. Pour mixture into a large bowl to cool for about 15 minutes. Add honey, butter, brown sugar, pure vanilla extract, and salt to a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted, and sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, pour over oat mixture and stir to combine well, then add in the dried cherries. Pour mixture into the parchment lined baking dish and press down with the back of a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the dark chocolate chips on top. Chill in the dish for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. Lift the bars from the pan and cut into rectangle shaped bars. Place bars into individual plastic bags and store in the freezer for up to two weeks. Editor’s note: Hanna McCain is a cookbook author and the mother to two children, Eli and Hub.
Her cooking videos can be found at https://www.redhillsmsnews.com.