Tropical Fruits and Coconut Granola Bars (vegan and gluten free!)

Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Sugar Free

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 At the end of my two month holiday a few months ago, for the first time in my whole trip I had two days by myself. I left my sister and friend at a bus stop in Sukhotai, Thailand and began the seven hour journey back to Bangkok on my own. I shed a little tear watching my friends getting smaller through the window, knowing I wouldn’t see them for a whole month. It’s strange spending every waking minute with someone for so long, and then suddenly not at all. 

By the time I arrived in Bangkok the sun was setting. By the time I got to my hotel and checked in, it was well and truly dark. I had told myself I would get my last street food meal for dinner that night, but I confess I got a veggie subway and a bag of fresh fruit instead. Sitting in my hotel room eating mango slices, watching reruns of The Texas Bachelorette, I felt homesick for the first time. I missed my dog, I missed my family and the friends who I hadn’t seen in weeks. But mainly I just missed talking to people I knew. 

In the airport (which I accidentally arrived at 6 hours before my flight…curse you 24 hour time!) I spent all my remaining money on presents for my family, including two huge bags of dried fruit for my Step Dad. My plans were to make him some tropical granola bars as soon as I got home, because he love granola bars. 

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 My grand plans got sidetracked by a number of other exciting dishes that had to come first, and somehow three months passed before I could get around to it! Better late than never right?

These granola bars are packed full of tropical flavours and they’re the best I’ve ever made, hands down! I have so many issues with granola bars. I hate when they crumble. I HATE IT. I hate when they’re overly sweet or so chewy your teeth almost fall out. Granola bars aren’t something I wanted to settle with, they had to be juuust right. 

It’s hard to get a balance between making a super healthy bar, which is so easy considering how much goodness you can pack in, as well as making them taste as good as a cafe-bought bar. These bars have found a happy compromise. They are rich from a maple syrup and coconut butter caramel, but also bursting with superfoods like goji, sunflower seeds, coconut and mango. 

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 I’m sad that the granola bars were oh so good, but the photos came out oh so bad! Sometimes I just can’t even deal with my photos. I mean, please. There needs to be an intervention. Someone needs to come and sit me down and explain everything there ever is to know about anything to do with my camera because my brain has turned to mush after all the uni work I did this week and I can’t improve by myself. I JUST CAN’T. 

You’re just going to have to trust me with this one. It’s such a great recipe, I know I’ll be using it from now on when the need for granola bars arises. You don’t have to take it down the tropical road if you don’t want to, that’s just an idea I had while I was waiting in Bangkok airport for my lonely flight home. 

I also ate four scoops of banana and chocolate ice cream while I was there, but that’s another story. 

If you try adding different flavours, let me know how it goes! And happy May! 

One Year Ago: Chocolate and Caramel Banana Muffins

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Tropical Granola Bars: Adapted from Ottolenghi

45g each hazelnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and desiccated coconut

190g rolled oats

30g ground almonds 

50g dried mango

50g dried pineapple

50g dried goji berries

1 ripe banana

 

For the caramel:

75g raw sugar

85g coconut butter, or oil I think would work too

85g maple syrup (or honey for non-vegan)

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Method:

Preheat oven to 160C (320F) and line a 20 x 23cm tin with baking paper. Soak the fruit briefly in water to soften a bit. Cut into small chunks, about the size of the goji berries. Roughly chop up the nuts. Stir together all the ingredients except the caramel and the banana in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, melt the coconut butter and syrup and sugar and stir well so that everything is combined. Cook for a minute, then pour over the dry ingredients. Stir well. Mash the banana and stir through the mix. Pour into the lined tin and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden on top. Allow the bars to cool completely before chopping with a serrated knife. 

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Coconut and Peanut Butter Granola Clusters

Vegan, Gluten Free and Refined Sugar Free

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Peanut butter brings back so many great memories for me. One time, I was having dinner with some friend’s and my sister arrived really late from a party. At first we didn’t notice anything unusual, but it soon became apparent that she was a little, um…drunk. She just sat there trying to be subtle for about half an hour, not really daring to join in the conversation, and then…

She stood up, gathered everyones attention and said, ‘do you guys want to hear a song from family guy’? Then she violently started dancing and yelling “PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME. PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME. PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME.” For a really long time.

Oh my gosh. I think it might just be my funniest memory of her. Especially because she was meeting everyone there literally for the first time, that night. 

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 Good old peanut butter. It just makes life so much more rich and varied. I think it may be the most versatile spread, up there with jam. This peanut butter and coconut granola actually had it’s beginnings in what would probably be considered a kitchen failure. 

As it’s Father’s Day today (Happy Father’s Day Dad and Step-Dad!!) I wanted to make some chewy peanut butter and coconut granola bars, because my step-dad goes absolutely nuts for them. I didn’t want to use a whole heap of sugar and I was trying to squeeze in more protein, so the ratio’s were different to what I was used to. I also forgot to take them out of the oven. 

What resulted was granola bars that shattered into clumps as soon as you tried to pick one up. It was so sad! But then I took a bite of some of the crumbs and holla! It was the best granola cluster I’d ever tried. The peanut butter flavour is amazing! And the clusters are huge instead of tiny and impossible to preserve whilst you pour it in the bowl. 

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I am still pushing forward with my granola bar attempts but I had to share this granola cluster recipe as well, because it’s so easy and fuss-free. You can use a combination of fruits, seeds and nuts but the best granola always has a good balance of crunchy, sweet, sour, crumbly and salty. Granola is best if the seeds and nuts are toasted for 8-10 minutes before being cooked, so just toast the first 5 ingredients at 180C (350F) until golden brown. 

I added some things I hadn’t tried before, like pine nuts and cranberries, and both worked really well. The desiccated coconut adds a sweet toasty flavour to the granola that is especially good with soy milk. You can eat a bowl of this granola like you would cereal, but it’s also great sprinkled over yogurt and fruit, folded into a compote or even just as a snack for nibbling on. 

If you’re making it gluten free, be sure to check the oats and other seeds on the packet, because some time’s they’re packaged by the same machines that deal with products containing gluten and can become contaminated. 

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Coconut and Peanut Butter Granola Clusters:

50g (1/2 cup) each chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds

25g (1 heaped tbsp) each pine nuts, flaked or chopped almonds and desiccated coconut

75g (2/3 cup) each dried cranberries and dried apricots and sultanas

45g (1/3 cup + 1/2 tbsp) ground almonds

240g (2 + 2/3 cup) oats

125g (1 cup) coconut butter

100g (5 tbsp) raw honey

75g (1/2 cup) peanut butter

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Preheat the oven to 160C (320F) and line an 18cm x 40cm or similar baking dish. Soak the cranberries, apricots and sultanas in some water for 10-20 minutes, then drain well. Mix the chopped nuts, seeds, oats, coconuts and fruit together in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, heat the honey, coconut butter and peanut butter until melted and combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Press everything into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and crumbly. Leave to cool completely, and then crumble up and store in airtight jars or containers. Enjoy!

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Healthy Oat and Apricot Granola Bars

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Sugar Free, Low Fat and Vegan

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Can I get a hola’ for granola? No?

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Exams are over and I am so happy. Yes, I did only have one exam. Yes, I was so nervous everyone assumed I must have at least six. But it was my first law exam! Ever! I only realised about five weeks ago that government and  law were actually linked. This is how prepared I was so there was actually some cause for concern.

Anyway pass or fail it is over now and time for some granola. This here is some good stuff. It is full of healthy seeds and nuts and dried fruits. It is filling and not too sweet, and it is time for holidays now. Make this granola if you are similarly in the mood for some healthy celebration. There is no flour or sugar in these granola bars either, and they are packed with protein! Other than that they also taste pretty good too. 
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Healthy Oat and Apricot Granola Bars: Inspired by Ottolenghi

50 grams each (1/2 cup roughly) walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots and sultanas

200 grams (2 cups) gluten free oats 

30 (2 tbsp) grams almond meal

200 grams (1 cup) raw honey

100 (1/2 cup) grams peanut butter

Grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking paper. Preheat oven to 160C. Stir all your dry ingredients together. In a small saucepan melt your honey and peanut butter together and stir together. Pour over your dry ingredients and stir well. Pat down firmly with a large spoon into your tin using a potato masher, and bake for 20-23 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely before lifting out and cutting into squares. 
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