Well, the day has finally arrived. The last night of summer. Tomorrow I go back to school, back into the classroom, to prepare for another year of 7th grade. As I sit here typing this, my chest is a little tight with anticipation and anxiety about the school year to come. I’ll meet my students on Monday, and summer vacation will soon be just a distant memory for us all. It’s kind of sad and bittersweet. I love my job–don’t get me wrong–but summer passing so quickly each year makes me realize how time just slips away so fast.
Anyway, enough waxing poetic for this evening. Sometimes when I’m really bored, I wander the aisles of the grocery store in search of inspiration. I love finding new and different ingredients and challenging myself to create a recipe around them. Since it’s time for me to go back to work, I’m in need of easy, healthy snack foods. One of my favorite go-to snack recipes is homemade granola bars. They’re so easy to make and taste SO good. I love that they don’t have a ton of sugar and that I can control exactly what goes in them.
A couple weeks ago at Trader Joe’s I came across a bag of dried sweet baby pineapple. I’m a huge pineapple lover, and baby pineapple–how cute is that? I have a bit of a pineapple obsession going on right now, so of COURSE I had to buy a bag. I thought they’d make some really different and delicious granola bars. And I was totally right.
I combined the pineapple with some coconut for a little extra tropical flavor, and some mini dark chocolate chips for a little sweetness. I love eating dark chocolate–it cures my sweet tooth and the antioxidants are good for you too!
One thing I love about making granola bars at home is that you can customize them however you want. The basic formula is pretty easy. You need a binder and a sweetener (like applesauce and honey), some spices (like cinnamon and vanilla), and oats, and then you can customize the rest to your own tastes. You can add nuts for some crunch, all kinds of dried fruit, and even chocolate.
These granola bars are also gluten free, which is really cool for people like my sister who are gluten intolerant. She has such a hard time finding reliable, edible, and delicious gluten free snacks, so I kind of designed these with her in mind. Just keep in mind, when making gluten free granola or granola bars, make sure you get certified gluten free oats, because lots of them can have cross-contaminants. I always buy my oats at Trader Joe’s, since they have the gluten-free seal on them.
Feel free to adapt this recipe however you see fit. If you like milk chocolate, go for it. Want to add a different fruit? Cool! Need some nuts for a little saltiness and added crunch? Go crazy. I hope you enjoy!
Pineapple Dark Chocolate Granola Bars
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/3 + ¼ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2½ cups rolled oats
- 1 1/2 cups chopped, dried sweet baby pineapple
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper (I used an oval Corningware pan–it works but your bars will be a little bit funky shaped!).
2. In bowl, whisk together the honey, applesauce, cinnamon and vanilla.
3. Add the oats. Make sure to mix thoroughly, coating all of the oats with the wet ingredients.
4. Add the pineapple, unsweetened coconut, and chocolate. Mix to combine.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Use a spatula to pat it down tightly and smooth out the top.
4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and cool in the freezer until the bars are firm, about 1 hour. Remove from the pan and cut into bars. You’ll want to store these in an airtight container at room temperature; they’ll last for about one week.
I like to wrap these individually in foil at the beginning of each week. When I pack my lunch in the morning, I just grab a bar and toss it into my lunch bag. Easy and fast. Once you taste these homemade granola bars, you’ll never go back to the store-bought ones again!