Confession #142: I’m a snacker… Cranberry-Apricot Almond Butter Granola Bars
As much as I loooove a good sandwich, one that’s warm and toasty and packed with yummy fillings, I rarely ever have one because I’m just not a big lunch eater. My list of meal priorities goes something like: breakfast, dinner/dessert (actually dessert might come before dinner), and then… lunch. At best, lunch for me usually means some granola or a smoothie. If I’m not armed with some enticing & healthy snack foods around the house, I find myself opening cabinet, refrigerator, and freezer doors and staring at the shelves before resigning myself to the fact that there’s nothing I want to eat.
I’ve been trying to eat a little healthier lately, so I made these bars with breakfast in mind, but they were just SO FREAKIN’ GOOD that I couldn’t help snack on a bite or two (or more) throughout the day. I loved opening the fridge and knowing that there was something healthy, filling, and worthy of my cravings waiting for me inside. Even after making three batches of these bars for recipe testing, I wasn’t even close to being bored of them. In fact, it was one of the rare times when everyone in our house was devouring the same thing, and they’re healthy. BAM.
The bars are somewhere in the middle of crunchy and chewy, and they’re like a texture nirvana with the combination of toasted whole almonds, little oat bits, and lots of dried fruit. The tangy-sweet apricots and tart-but-sweet cranberries make every bite explode with flavor, and just a small amount of agave syrup makes the bars perfectly sweet. The homemade almond butter mixed with all those extra almonds and a touch of almond extract adds richness and nuttiness to the taste, and just like in these scones, the apricots and almonds make a dream team.
I could not get enough of how good these bars were, and the fact that they’re way healthier than any packaged granola bars you can buy and about 1,000 times more delicious is just the icing on the cake. They’re even no-nuts picky-eater approved – definitely can’t go wrong!
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and an 8" square pan with foil. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick spray.
Spread oats and almonds out on the prepared baking sheet, without letting them get mixed together. Toast in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until fragrant.
Transfer oats to a food processor and pulse until finer in texture, similar to quick-cooking oats.
Combine oats, almonds, apricots, cranberries, and salt in a large bowl and toss together to evenly combine.
Place agave syrup in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, monitoring temperature with a reliable thermometer, until the temperature reaches 255ºF. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract.
Spoon almond butter by dollops over the oat mixture and drizzle the agave evenly on top. Stir everything together well until all of the dry ingredients are evenly coated by the almond butter and agave.
Press mixture into the prepared square pan, compacting in very well so the mixture reaches all corners and sides in a tight, flat layer. (A wide, flat spatula works well for this.) Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate bars until firm, at least a few hours but preferably overnight.
Slices into bars with a strong, sharp serrated knife. Store in an airtight container in the fridge to ensure the bars stay intact. Bars can also be wrapped individually in plastic wrap to make for easy grab-and-go access.
*While I haven't used quick-cooking oats in this recipe, they should work as well. If using them, skip the step of processing them in the food processor. Use gluten-free oats to make this recipe gluten-free.
**Using dried fruit with no sugar added will make these bars as healthy as possible.
***Almond butter may vary in consistency between homemade and store-bought. If using store-bought, you may need to microwave the almond butter slightly to thin out before adding to the other ingredients.