No-bake granola bars


Guys. I have tried and tried to make actually good, lower sugar, school-safe granola bars. I succeeded with these bars, but they're a bit more effort than I'm willing to expend when I suddenly realize on a week night that we don't have anything for snack or lunch boxes the next day. These granola cups are super easy, but we're entering that sweltering season where turning on the oven is basically just opening the gates of hell.


Instead we have these no-bake granola bars that are super quick and easy (and cool) to prepare, are lower in sugar than store bought bars, are free of dairy, nuts, gluten, and eggs AND are absolutely freaking delicious.


I've tried a couple of no-bake granola bar recipes via Pinterest that left me wanting. Some recommended using quick oats, which got lost in the honey and nut butter mixture. Some also suggested rice cereals that lost their crunch when mixed with the other ingredients.

Many of them also call for dates, which I tried in these bars too. Here's the thing: If you use enough dates, they do help the bars stick together when they heat up. But, your bars taste primarily like dates, which I didn't want for this recipe. So, just beware that these bars are ever-so-slightly crumbly when they heat up.


A couple of notes:
- The texture of these bars can change based on a few factors: First, nut butters separate, especially in the heat, so the thoroughness of your mixing can change the texture of these bars. Try your best to mix vigorously so that your nut butter isn't too thin or too thick.
- You should be able to form the mixture into a ball that stays together and doesn't stick to your fingers. If the mixture is too crumbly, add one Tbsp of nut butter at a time and mix again to see if the grains come together. If the mixture is too sticky, try adding 1 Tbsp of oats at a time until you have a better consistency.
- Give the dry ingredients a good stir before adding in the wet ingredients. The mixing of the wet and dry ingredients can require some elbow grease, but is easier if you've already distributed the grains and cinnamon.
- To make these bars school safe, use sunflower seed butter. If you don't have nut or peanut restrictions, peanut and almond butter are perfectly great substitutes.
- If you can't find or don't want to use the chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, any old chocolate chips or carob chips (we're particularly fond of these non-dairy chocolate chips), will do.  
- Millet is a slightly more exotic ingredient, but it's available at Whole Foods or health stores and really helps these bars to have some crunch. Millet is also gluten free and has a ton of health benefits.


Actually good, no-bake granola bars

1¾ cups rolled oats (not quick oats or steel cut)
½ cup millet
1 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup sunflower seed butter
¼ cup honey
½ cup chocolate covered sunflower seeds or chocolate chips
Optional: a pinch of salt

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and give them a stir.

Add the sunflower seed butter and the honey and stir to combine. You can zap these ingredients in the microwave to loosen them up a bit first, but I find that a little elbow grease and some wet hands do the trick.

Add the chocolate covered sunflower seeds or chocolate chips and stir again just until they’re incorporated.

Dump the mixture out into a parchment-lined brownie pan (I like 8x8 best for the size of the bars it produces, but 9x9 or larger will also work with thinner results).

Freeze for 20 minutes. Remove the bars and cut them into 16-24 portions. Store in the fridge.

Yield: 16-24 bars


Granola cups


So, lunch at school. Do your kids actually eat it? M's eating is hit or miss. Though I pack his favorites, the school lunchroom seems to render them inedible. Fancying things up with cookie cutters and toothpicks seems to increase his interest. However, I'm pretty sure that the amount of effort I put into his lunches is inversely proportional to how much of it he actually eats.


To that end, here is a SUPER SUPER easy way to get some whole grains into your kiddos. Fill them with yogurt, fruit and veggie purees, sun butter, or whatever strikes your fancy. AND, these are so quick, require one bowl, and keep well in the fridge or freezer. So if your kids don't eat them, you'll feel less like raging at the sky!

I've experimented a lot with granola cups. We made them for the first time in a kids' cooking class and they were tasty, albeit a little bland. They also lost their crispiness almost immediately. I added some egg whites and a little healthy fat, which helped. But really, the millet is the key here to a crispy texture. So get thee to Whole Foods and pick up some millet. You won't regret it.

I used a combo of regular oats (not quick oats!) and quinoa flakes for extra protein, but feel free to use 2 cups of regular oats if you don't have or don't want to have quinoa flakes (you can also snag these at Whole Foods or a health food store in the cereal aisle).


Granola cups

1½ cups rolled oats
½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup millet
½ cup + 2 Tbsp honey
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a 12-cup cupcake tin by spraying or wiping it with coconut or olive oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, quinoa flakes, millet, honey, whipped egg whites, salt, and cinnamon and mix well.

Add two heaping tablespoons of the mixture to each cup, making sure to leave some in the bowl for filling in holes as needed. (So, start out filling 9 of the 12 cups and then fill in the rest with whatever you have left in the bowl.) Using the back of the spoon, press the mixture gently up the sides of the cups. If any holes appear while you're smoothing out the sides and bottom, add more of the oat mixture.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes until the cups start to brown at the edges.

Yield: 9-11 cups