No-Bake Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars {Gluten-Free}

As a mom of young kids, it is vitally important that I always have at least a couple of snacks packed in my bag whenever we leave the house. Store-bought granola bars are a great option due to their portability and long shelf life, but even the “healthier” brands have a longer ingredient list than I would like, not to mention too much added sugar. Homemade granola bars solve those issues, and this recipe is super easy and quick!

The bars do not need to be baked, so they’re ready to eat in mere minutes. They’re soft & chewy with a healthy balance of nutrition and unrefined sweetener; and, of course, they’re absolutely delicious!

 

No-Bake Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars {Gluten-Free}

by Lauren Zembron (adapted from Present Glo Bars in The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon)

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients (12 bars)

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats (you can certainly use regular old fashioned rolled oats if you don’t need a gluten-free recipe)
  • 1 1/4 cups crispy brown rice cereal (naturally gluten-free; I love the Erewhon brand)
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown rice syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup all natural unsweetened peanut butter (the only ingredients should be peanuts and salt; you can also use almond butter)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300°F. Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan (a 7 x 11 rectangular pan also works) with parchment paper going both ways, making sure to leave enough overhang to assist you in taking the granola bars out of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, crispy rice cereal, and salt.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the brown rice syrup and peanut butter. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until the peanut butter has liquified. Add in the vanilla extract and stir until completely combined and smooth.

Spoon the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until well-combined. Make sure you scrape all of the wet ingredients out of the bowl and into the dry ingredients.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and, using lightly wetted hands, press into an even layer. Lay an additional sheet of parchment paper on top of the mixture and firmly roll a pastry roller over the top to compact the mixture.

Place in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Lift the granola bars out of the pan by picking up the overhanging parchment paper, place on a cutting board, and cut into bars.

Store bars individually wrapped in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Trail Mix Granola Bars & Saratoga Peanut Butter Company

If you read my post on Flourless White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies, you are well aware of my loyalty to the Peanut Butter and Co. product line. I’ve never tried a peanut butter from that company that I didn’t absolutely love, so it hadn’t crossed my mind to seek out other brands. That is, until a couple of weeks ago when I discovered Saratoga Peanut Butter Company. My interest was immediately piqued upon browsing through the wide variety of delicious-sounding peanut butters on their website. Here’s a sampling: Blizzard Butter, a creamy white chocolate peanut butter; Chillin’ Chocolate, a peanut butter infused with dark chocolate; New York Maple made with local syrup; Monkey Boy featuring bananas and raisins; and Adirondack Jack, a peanut-and-almond butter hybrid studded with dried cranberries, flaxseeds & sunflower seeds, and sweetened with honey & cinnamon.

As if those descriptions weren’t enough to get me excited about Saratoga Peanut Butter, the background story of the company certainly was.  The company commenced in the kitchen of owner Jessica Arceri, a single mother who longed to feed her son healthy peanut butter. In Jessica’s words, “We make all the pb in small batches on a weekly basis to ensure freshness and quality.  I do not believe in adding any unnecessary ingredients and keep all the recipes simple and healthy…and delicious of course!”

I was fortunate enough to receive a package from Jessica the other day, which I immediately tore into and found a jar each of the previously mentioned Blizzard Butter and Adirondack Jack. I wasted no time sampling both nut butters, both of which lived up to my high expectations. The white chocolate Blizzard Butter is similar to – but a smidgen less sweet than – my beloved PB & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful (per 2 Tbsp serving, the Saratoga version has 4 grams of sugars, whereas the PB & Co. version has 7 grams).  Blizzard Butter is a tad bit grainier than White Chocolate Wonderful, which gives it more of a homemade consistency. Look for a blondie recipe featuring this delectable peanut butter on Healthy Food For Living soon!

Ok, now we’re finally getting to those Trail Mix Granola Bars you’re probably wondering about. Upon tasting the Adirondack Jack I instantly thought of trail mix, perhaps because the name reminded me of mountain hiking or maybe because some of my favorite trail mix (or as my pseudo-ex-hippie parents would call it, gorp) ingredients made their way into this nutrient-packed nut butter. I’ve been meaning to make another version of my Cherries & Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bars, and it didn’t take me long to decide on this trail mix version.

Soft and chewy, these granola bars are a great on-the-go snack. I’ve also been enjoying them crumbled on top of Greek yogurt or cold cereal. As is noted following the recipe, I suggest a) chopping the dried fruit and b) baking the bars in an 8 x 8 inch square pan in order to yield granola bars that hold together well. The bars photographed here were a bit crumbly, but that could easily be remedied by following the noted tips.

Trail Mix Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • canola oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice syrup (alternately, you could use the equivalent amount of honey, agave nectar, or  pure maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter, (I used Saratoga Peanut Butter Company Adirondack Jack), at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened & unsulfured dried fruit, such as cherries or cranberries*
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts and/or seeds, (I used 1/4 cup chopped almonds + 1/4 cup sunflower seeds)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan (or a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan for thicker bars)** with parchment paper so the sides hang over the edge of the pan. Lightly coat with canola oil cooking spray; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the applesauce, liquid sweetener of your choice, nut butter, and vanilla extract; stir until the mixture is completely homogenous.
  4. Fold in the rolled oats, puffed rice cereal, salt, cinnamon, dried fruit, and nuts and/or seeds. Spoon batter into the prepared pan, spreading into an even layer, and bake until lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes (add about 5 additional minutes of baking time if you’re using a loaf pan).
  5. Allow to cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then remove by picking up the sides of the parchment paper. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars.

Notes:

*If using dried fruit that comes in larger pieces, such as cherries, I suggest roughly chopping them before adding to the batter.

**Having made two batches of these granola bars, one in an 8 x 8 inch pan and the other in a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, I can say that the bars hold together better when baked in the 8 x 8 square pan. Although I like the traditional rectangular shape of the bars from the 9 x 5 loaf pan, their thickness made them a bit more crumbly.