I really love a snack. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, midnight. The time matters little, I’m always fixed for a bite or two.
Having a couple of nutritious options around the house helps me make better decisions and get the most from my pecking, since it is so frequent. I spotted the recipe for these bars in the current (January 2014) Bon Appetit Magazine and was certain they would make for a killer snack on their own, with granola or milk, an afternoon coffee or on the run any time of the day. Especially if I packed them with a few extra items (cashews! flax! chia seeds!). Unfortunately, likely due to my impatience and using a different sized pan than called for, they were less bars, more clusters. And whoaaaa-so-good no matter the shape they happen to take.
These clusters have everything you want. Including a healthy (or not so) amount of sticky maple syrup blended with sweet, plump Mejool dates and tart cranberries, crunchy amaranth (excellent source of protein, calcium/iron/magnesium), chia seeds (fiber, Omega3s, Phosphorus, stabilizes blood sugar), flax seeds (Lignans, fiber, Omega3s), a mixture of crunchy nuts (Vitamin A+E+B, selenium, cholesterol reduction) and a couple other tasty morsels thrown in for crunch and flavour.
If you tend to get a bit peckish or find yourself fighting through afternoon energy lulls or hunger pangs, these are the perfect snack to get you back on track while still feeling satisfied. They are just sweet enough to feel like a treat.
Seed and Nut Granola Clusters
Adapted from Bon Appetit
makes approx. 6 cups of clusters
If you cook these for longer and let them cool COMPLETELY, you might have better luck than I did slicing bars. I left the recipe I used as-is because I actually like them in clusters instead of bars. Either way is delicious.
1/2 cup cranberries
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil/virgin coconut oil
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp amaranth
1 tbsp flax seeds (ground or otherwise)
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup mixed nuts (I used pecans, almonds, cashews)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven to 350.
Place the chopped dates, cranberries, cinnamon stick and syrup in a small pot over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture bubble away for 8-10 minutes. But then, you should be able to use the back of a fork or spoon to mush it all together. It should be similar in texture to applesauce with some extra liquid from the syrup seeping out. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the slightly cooled syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a spatula until all the oats/seeds/nuts are covered in the syrup. Turn 1/2 the into a large, high-sided cake pan (I used a 15” x 10” x 2” rectangular baking dish) and pack the mixture down as hard and evenly as you can. Add the rest of the oat mixture and press into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cool for 20 minutes.
Break up the mixture into large clusters and place back in the pan. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes for crispy-edged clusters.