I've made granola bars a handful of times before but none quite like these. The first time I used a recipe I found under the lid of some Quaker oats and they turned out poorly, too cakey. The next few times I tried my hand at no-bake granola bars using brown rice syrup, oats, crisp rice cereal and whatever mix-ins I was feeling at the time; those turned out pretty well but I couldn't seem to perfect the ratios of ingredients and I used puffed rice cereal instead of crisp rice cereal but didn't realize my mistake until after I'd made a couple batches... oops. Needless to say (though I guess I already have), there were some problems, one of the biggest being that out of the fridge the bars totally softened up, and while I like a chewy granola bar, I don't want them to fall apart on me.
So here is some of my criteria for a good granola bar: a good granola bar needs to be filling, it needs to be wholesome, it needs to be able to hold up in the bottom of a handbag or backpack, and, perhaps most importantly, it needs to taste good.
I got my inspiration for these from my new favorite bars, Pure Bars. I can't find them at many places around here; actually, I can only find them at Trader Joe's and they only carry two of the six flavors (Cherry Cashew and Chocolate Brownie, if you were curious). Anyway, I've really wanted to try the ChocChip Trail Mix flavor but as I said, I can't find it anywhere so I decided to make it. I changed up the ingredients a little and came out with a bar that I'm sure is just as good (if not better than) the original (even though I've never had it).
These bars meet all my criteria for a good granola bar. The only thing I might do differently next time is decrease the amount of nuts so the bars aren't quite as caloric. What I did this time once I realized is cut them into smaller pieces. If you make 10 squares instead of six rectangles, each one will be about 200 calories with around 75 from fat, which is pretty much just how I like my granola bars- with a calorie count low enough to be a snack and a decent amount of healthy fats to keep you satisfied.
Trail Mix Granola Bars
Feel free to play around with these ingredients however you'd like. The original bar uses raw cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips, but I wasn't ready to make that splurge just yet. Also, you can use your favorite nuts and mix-ins instead of following mine to a T. I really enjoyed the sweet and salty combo that resulted from using some raw nuts and some salted ones. You could also double the recipe and press it into an 8x8 brownie pan if you want more bars.
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup dry roasted and salted pistachios
10 medjool dates, pitted [I always buy un-pitted and pit them myself to prevent them from drying out]
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon ground flax
1 tablespoon peanut butter
3 tablespoons oat bran
Pulse chocolate chips in a food processor until broken up into smaller pieces (don't worry if they aren't uniform, and don't over process). Remove the chips and set aside. Add all nuts to the food processor (no need to clean) and pulse until broken into small pieces, remove and set aside. Pulse the dates, peanut butter and half the raisins in the food processor until a paste forms.
In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips, nuts, sunflower seeds, ground flax and oat bran and stir together. Transfer the date paste to the bowl and mix until well combined- this will take some time and seem difficult at first, but it happens.
Press the mixture into a parchment lines bread pan and even out (you can coat your hands with a small amount of oil, use the bottom of a cup, or press down with the exposed parchment). Freeze or refrigerate until hard (I used the freezer and waited a little under an hour) and then cut into as many pieces as you'd like.
Wrap in wax paper and store in the refrigerator.