Sunday, January 1, 2012

Cranberry Pecan Health Bars

Happy New Year! Did you make a New Year's resolution to eat healthier? If so, this recipe certainly has a place in your diet. One of the biggest obstacles for many people when it comes to eating healthier is time, leading far too many people to rush out of the house without breakfast or grab a snack from the vending machine at work when the mid-afternoon munchies strike. If you can invest a little bit of time on the weekend to whip up a batch of these easy bars, you'll have at least one guaranteed source of quick nutrition during the work week. While I can go on and on about all the nutritious components of these hearty bars, it's would be all for naught if they weren't delicious as well. The classic combination of sweet-tart cranberries and rich, toasty pecans are united with chewy oats by sweet dates and a bit of honey in this tasty, filling breakfast or snack. I happened to choose pecans and cranberries, but I can think of dozens of other combinations that would be fantastic in these bars as well-walnuts and cranberries, almonds and blueberries,  pistachios and apricots...I could go on forever. But as long as you're going to the effort of making one batch, why not make a couple different varieties, freezing the extra for a flavorful cache of nutrition at the ready anytime.

Cranberry Pecan Health Bars
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 8 bars

1 cup (9 ounces) pitted dates
1/4 cup brown rice syrup, honey, or maple syrup
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons oat bran
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dates in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer. Drain. Puree in a food processor with brown rice syrup or honey until smooth.

2. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Place oats and half of the pecans in a food processor, pulse until coarsely ground, and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining pecans, cranberries, bran, flaxseed, wheat germ, salt, and cinnamon to bowl and toss to combine. Mix in date puree and brown rice syrup, honey, or maple syrup. Press mixture into an even layer pan. (Wetting your hands first will facilitate the process).

3. Bake until center is firm and edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 8 bars.

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