Good morning from New York! I am perched on a cushy hotel bed, with a window overlooking TriBeCa on my left and a bag of homemade granola bars to my right. I’m here because you all voted for my roasted cauliflower lentil tacos when I asked you to. Thank you so much!
The USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council flew me out here to attend their event. The United Nations designated 2016 to be the International Year of Pulses (think beans, chickpeas and lentils) for their significant health, economic and environmental benefits. We’re going to celebrate tonight with farmers, chefs and magazine editors. Party on, lentils!!!
These granola bars survived the trip intact, so I can vouch for their portability. I got the idea to make a cranberry orange version of my almond chocolate chip granola bars from Lilly, who commented on my cranberry orange granola recipe and asked how to turn the granola into granola bars.
I offered some suggestions but couldn’t get Lilly’s idea out of my head, so here we are. Wholesome, honey-sweetened, cranberry-orange granola bars made with lots of healthy whole grains, nuts and seeds. These no-bake granola bars would also make great “energy bites,” too, if you’d rather roll the dough between your palms to make one-inch balls. If you appreciate cranberry orange muffins and the like, you’ll love these!
Thank you to Lilly for this idea, and for all of you who come over and leave comments with ideas, questions and suggestions. I read each one and try my very best to respond to every single one of them. I’m always bragging on you guys for being so wonderful. Thank you for voting for my tacos, too! I’ll share my New York adventures on Snapchat today (I’m @cookieandkate), if you’d like to follow along.
- 1 cup pecan pieces
- ⅓ cup pepitas
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries
- 1¾ cups quick-cooking oats (or old-fashioned oats, pulsed briefly in a food processor or blender to break them up)
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, preferably organic (from 1 large orange)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt, to taste (decrease if your almond/peanut butter is salted)
- 1 cup creamy unsalted almond butter or peanut butter, packed
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Line a 9-inch square baker with two strips of criss-crossed parchment paper, cut to fit neatly against the base and up the sides. The parchment paper will make it easy for you to slice the bars later.
- In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the pecans and pepitas, stirring often, until they are fragrant and the pepitas are starting to make little popping noises, about 5 minutes. Transfer the toasted pecans and pepitas to a food processor. Add the cranberries and then run the machine for about 10 seconds, until the nuts and cranberries are all broken up. (If you skip the food processor step, your bars will be more difficult to slice through and more likely to crumble at the edges.)
- In a mixing bowl, combine the contents of the food processor with the oats, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Whisk to combine.
- In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the almond butter, honey and vanilla extract until well blended.
- Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Use a big spoon to mix them together until the two are evenly combined and no dry oats remain. This takes some arm muscles, but you can do it! If the mixture was easy to mix together, that's a sign that you need to add some more oats—sprinkle in more oats until you can't incorporate any more.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared square baker. Use your spoon to arrange the mixture fairly evenly in the baker, then use the bottom of a flat, round surface (like a short, sturdy drinking glass), covered in a small piece of parchment paper, to pack the mixture down as firmly and evenly as possible.
- Cover the baker and refrigerate for at least one hour, or preferably overnight. (The oats need time to soak up some of the moisture so they aren't sticky.) When you’re ready to slice, lift the bars out of the baker by grabbing both pieces of parchment paper on opposite corners. Use a sharp knife to slice the bars into 1” strips, then slice them in half through the middle.
- For portability, you can wrap individual bars in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Bars keep well for a couple of days at room temperature, but I recommend storing individually wrapped bars in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for best flavor.
Make it vegan: Use maple syrup instead of honey.
Make it gluten free: Be sure to choose certified gluten-free oats.
Make it nut free: I haven't tried this, but I think you could replace the almond butter with sunflower seed butter and the pecans with more pepitas and/or sunflower seeds.