Ok, I won't beat around the bush and pretend that I didn't choose to use colorful chocolate candy sunflower seeds solely for food blogging "oomph". I'll admit it, I had a certain upcoming holiday in mind and yes, for a split second I contemplated picking out just the pink, magenta, and lavender colored ones so I could pass these granola bars off as a Valentine's Day treat. I know, I know, I'm rolling my eyes, too.
But seriously, why can't we perk-up the usually boring granola bars? Regardless of holiday, I hope these color-studded treats brighten up someone's day - whether they're for you, or the big and little loves of your life that you make them for. Unless, you're allergic to chocolate or food coloring, of course. Luckily, these chocolate sunflower seed drops (that I buy from Trader Joe's) are naturally colored with good stuff like red beet powder, paprika, tumeric, and red cabbage powder. Look at that, you get your veggies in, too!
Who says Valentine's treats can't be semi-healthy? Besides sunflower seeds, these chewy granola bars are chock full of oats (obviously), unsweetened coconut, and raisins. I even threw in some chia seeds for good measure. It's not void of all the good stuff though - butter and brown sugar bring it all together so it'll still feel like you're treating yourself. Or, wrap these bars up individually in plastic wrap, or sealed in a cellophane bag with a sweet note and secretly slide them into the lunch box or briefcase of your special someone.
Chewy Granola Bars
The original recipe calls for old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats but since I always have gluten-free rolled oats in my pantry, I simply processed them a bit into smaller flakes. Feel free to skip this step if you have the aforementioned oats. Feel free to swap out the chocolate sunflower seed drops for plain seeds, pumpkin seeds, or some chopped nuts.
Yield: 1 8-inch pan
1 1/2 cups rolled oats, roughly processed
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chocolate sunflower seed drops (I like the ones from Trader Joe's)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, generously butter the foil and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together oats, oat flour, chia seeds, spices, coconut, raisins and chocolate sunflower seeds.
In a small bowl, stir together honey, melted butter and orange juice. Pour over the oat mixture and mix with a spatula until ingredients are incorporated and mixture is moistened.
Spoon the granola mixture into prepared baking pan and press downly tightly with spatula or your hand until packed in the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 45 minutes before cutting into bars. Lift the foil and the baked granola out of pan. Discard foil. Place block of granola onto cutting board and cut into 12 bars. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.
Source: Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipesby Joy Wilson
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