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Nut, Seed & Fruit Filled Granola Bars

Posted Mar 29 2010 12:00am
This summer we plan on getting in a lot of camping. The good old fashioned, pitch a tent, unroll your sleeping bag, and set out the little camping stove kind. Just the way we like it. We have big plans to travel to many of the country's national parks we haven't visited yet (or at least have not visited as adults), inspired mostly by the PBS broadcast we watched last year. Any recommendations are very welcome!

So I'm on the hunt for the perfect snacks and meals we can pack along with us. I've decided to start with granola bars, because this seems to be a staple for us and most people when in the outdoors; and even when not. But I do have high standards for these bars. They have to have a good amount of protein from nuts to power us through long hikes, but not be so overly sweet or sugar laden that our energy levels plummet no sooner than we've gotten back to camp. It also needs to be easily portable and have a good shelf life, and not be sticky or gooey. 
This has proven to be a challenge, as I've changed and tweaked this recipe many times, and as good as these granola bars were, they're still not quite there yet, but I just had to post them because they were still so good and I'd make them again. The only requirement they didn't fill was their portability. They were much too crumbly and just barely seemed to be holding onto their "bar" shape. This will not do because I don't really want to reach into my pack, excited to bite into a nutty, fruit filled bar, only to find a bunch of crumbles that I have to throw back with a big glug of water. I also don't want to return home with crumbs in between the seats of the car because they didn't make it into my mouth; it's bound to happen.
Aside from that, I thought they were pretty darn good. Not too sweet, full of almonds, cashews, and sesame seeds. Studded with dried cranberries and large dried tart cherries; I was lazy and didn't feel like chopping them, but I'm glad because I loved getting a big chunk. The touch of cinnamon was a perfect note alongside the peanut butter and honey. I ground up the nuts into small pieces so I had them in every bite, but more importantly so they were more likely to stay together. Just don't grind them so much that you end up with powder. Play around with different nuts, seeds and fruit; just like granola, there seems to be infinite ways to make it your own. I'll be back sooner than later once I've found the perfect camping granola bar, but for now these will fuel me just right.
Nut, Seed & Fruit Filled Granola Bars20 2-inch squares
2 cups rolled oats1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped1/2 cup cashews, finely chopped1/2 cup toasted wheat germ2 tablespoons sesame seeds2 teaspoons cinnamon1/2 teaspoon salt1/3 cup honey1/3 cup natural peanut butter1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 1 cup mixed dried fruit (I used cranberries and cherries)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×12-inch baking dish.
Place the rolled oats, almonds, and cashews together on a baking pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Once the oats are toasted, stir in the toasted wheat germ, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and salt. Turn the oven down to 300˚F.
While the oat mixture is toasting, place the honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan over medium to low heat. Heat just until mixture is combined and a runny consistency. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Set aside.
Combine the honey and oat mixtures, until everything is well coated, then stir in the dried fruit. Pour into your prepared pan and press it all down as compactly as you possibly can, don't skimp on the edges either.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Let cool for 2-3 hours before cutting, otherwise they might not come out as clean nice little bars.
Store in an air tight container for a week or two.
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