Valentine’s Day always makes me think of combining chocolate and cherries. Although I don’t particularly celebrate the holiday (other than eating [more] chocolate and cutting food into heart shapes— so cute!), I had it in mind when I made these granola bars. They are so nice to have on hand for a busy day and the base recipe itself is very adaptable. The ingredient list looks long, but these bars come together very easily. Swap in different seeds, nuts, or fruit to your liking; I’ve listed some ideas below.
1/2 cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup almond or cashew butter
1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat bran
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Mix it up: Feel free to adjust these bars to your personal taste. Things like hemp seeds, sesame seeds, chopped cashews or almonds, or dried apricots could all be possible swaps for the toppings listed above. Keep the ratios the same, and the bars should bake up just fine.
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Line a 9x 13-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving some excess paper on the sides to create a sling.
In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients, mixing until smooth. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine oats, wheat bran, cinnamon, salt, pepitas, seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. Stir. Pour wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir very well until everything is moistened.
Spread into parchment-lined pan and press down firmly.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes in pan, then remove parchment sling onto wire rack to cool completely. Cut into bars. These will keep for several days at room temperature, but are also great to put in the freezer to pull out as needed.