So my daughter started junior kindergarten this fall, and while she’s allowed to bring nuts to school in her lunches (Hallelujah! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the win!), her lunch period is at 11:00 am– making it necessary for her to have a filling, healthy snack for later in the afternoon. Snacks, unfortunately, are required to be completely peanut and tree nut-free due to an allergy in her class, so I’m going to have to get creative this year to find things that will work for a quick pick-me-up.
I immediately thought of homemade granola bars– they’re easy to make, infinitely versatile, and can be tailored to her personal tastes as well as being reasonably healthy. I’d made these thick, chewy granola bars from Smitten Kitchen before with good results, so I decided to adapt the recipe to omit the nuts and substitute seeds and extra dried fruit (and chocolate). I ended up going with pepitas, sunflower seeds, and millet (added a crispy texture to the mix), along with dried blueberries, cranberries, and dates. The combination worked very well, and it was a success with the whole family!
Nut-Free Granola Bars
(makes a 9×13 pan, or 24 hearty bars)
4 cups rolled oats, divided
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup millet
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
12 tbs. butter, melted
1 cup sugar*
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup corn syrup (dark or light)
2 tbs. water
2/3 cup sunflower seed butter
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line a 9×13″ pan completely with parchment paper.
2. Separate out 2/3 cup oats and process in a f0od processor until finely ground.
3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
4. Combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
5. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
6. Press mixture firmly into the prepared pan, then bake for approximately 40 minutes until edges are browned. It’s okay if the center isn’t completely set, it’ll finish cooking on the counter.
(the above is unbaked– the edges are much browner once baked)
7. Remove from oven and cool the pan on a rack. Once the bars are cooled to room temperature, use an oiled knife to slice into 24 squares.
8. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze in a ziplock bag to store.
- I really like the millet in this recipe– it adds a little crispiness in the background that makes for an interesting mouthfeel.
- I used dark corn syrup, which I believe added a nice caramel flavor, but I could just be imagining things. You could also use maple syrup or extra honey.
- You might want to consider using mini chocolate chips in place of full-sized ones. It’s not necessary but it would help the chocolate disperse more evenly, if that’s the effect you’re going for.
* Yes, I consider sugar a wet ingredient. Most recipes treat it as one, and it helps the liquids integrate better with each other while you’re stirring them.