THIS IS NOT HEALTH FOOD.
I know that most of you know that granola bars have an unearned reputation as magically healthy. Like most things, they have some benefits, some downsides, and it all depends on a) what goes in them and b) how you define “healthy.” I’m not focused on healthy here, though, so if that’s why you want a granola bar, move on. It also has tree nuts and almonds, so apologies to the nut allergic people out there.
What I wanted was something like the granola bars of my later childhood — something that’s basically a candy bar, but with a certain crunch and an airy mouthfeel — plus, dipped in chocolate. Just because. I’m not going to try to explain random cravings; I just cook them. We occasionally had these instead of cookies in our packed lunches, and for some reason, they remind me of this time of year — summer isn’t here, but you know it’s coming.
I started this recipe off to use up a box of Environkidz Chocolate Koala Crisp. (Link informational, not affiliate). I am not a big cereal eater, but I go through phases where I like to eat it as a snack — this wasn’t the right texture or size for that, so it had been sitting on my shelf for a bit. But it was perfect for the main filler in this snack bar — it’s crunchy, airy, and just a bit chocolatey. Any crunchy cereal in small bits will work, so whatever is safe for you, buy that. I would consider using the Erewhon Crispy Brown Rice Cereal, (again, not an affiliate link) as that’s what I generally buy when I want actual cold cereal. But I’ve only made this with Koala Crisp, as I wanted to use that up, and I’d consider buying it again to make these bars.
To the cereal, I added a bunch of trail mix staples — coconut, almonds, and dried cherries. (Note: dried cranberries or raisins work better, as they are smaller and don’t mess up the overall texture. But I just like dried cherries better.) As an adult, I wanted a little more variety of taste and texture than the kiddy granola bar I remember (but still with chocolate on). Make a sticky sauce (this is messy, I know. Sorry. It works.) and then add chocolate. Ka-blam. Childhood snack. Maybe healthier, maybe not, but it’s safe for me.
Cereal Snack Bars
NOTE: dried shredded coconut appears on the ingredients list TWICE. This is not a mistake. I just find it less confusing to list it twice than tell you you need x amount, divided. This is not the sweetened coconut flakes — you could try that, but I think it would be too sweet. This is just pure dried/dessicated shredded coconut, which is wonderful.
- 1 cup crispy cereal
- 1/4 cup shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup smallish dried fruit (I used cherries)
- 1/4 cup thinly-sliced almonds (could also use chopped, but not whole — they won’t blend in)
- 3 dates, pitted (about 50g)
- 2 Tablespoons shredded coconut
- 2 Tablespoons coconut oil
- 4 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
- 1 cup chocolate chips (brand that’s safe for you)
Prepare an 8×8 inch baking pan by cutting a sheet of parchment that will fit in it. Don’t worry about being exact — just make sure you have enough to cover the bottom and sides when it’s filled.
Mix the dry ingredients (cereal, coconut, dried fruit, almonds) in a bowl.
In a food processor, add the dates, 2T shredded coconut, coconut oil (this can be solid, it’s fine), and brown rice syrup. They are in that order because you can use the same tablespoon if you do them in this order (the coconut oil will help the brown rice syrup not stick). Pulse it until the dates are chopped up well, then just blend. You will likely need to scrape the sides a few times, as this is really sticky. I’d suggest a silicone spatula, if you have one, and be careful not to cut it on the blades (I’ve lost a few this way).
Add the wet ingredients to the dry. It will take a little work to get this out of the food processor. Again, the silicone spatula is the least sticky thing I’ve tried. Using the spatula, mix the wet and dry ingredients. Mostly, this is like kneading bread — bring up a scoop of the dry ingredients and sort of press them into the mass stuck into your sticky goo from the food processor. I am assuming that if you keep working at it, this will eventually incorporate everything. I’ve never managed to do that — I just grease up my hands with a bit of coconut oil and mix with my hands after a bit. It works fine.
When you have a mostly solid mass of sticky bar ingredients, dump it into your prepared pan and press it down. I don’t worry too much about making it exactly fill the corners — the rustic edges make it look handmade! But always feel free to be more precise than I am.
Put this in the fridge to set, maybe 15 minutes or so.
Melt the chocolate. The microwave is easiest (20 second intervals, stirring), but I don’t own one, so I use my double boiler. Originally I had planned to dip each bar in the chocolate, but I realized that the easiest way would be to pour a layer of chocolate onto the whole pan, let it set, and then cut the bars. So do this — it is WAY less messy than dipping and it wastes less chocolate.
Let the chocolate set, then cut into bars. These keep best in an airtight container in the fridge.