Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thinking Outside the (Lunch)box Week: Banana Berry Granola Bars

We are so excited to have Sarah of What Smells So Good? here on our blog today! She's revamped the favorite of the lunchroom, the granola bar, to give it a healthier update! I can't wait to try these out. They look like something my boys and I will love. They look like a great addition to my lunch menu!

First of all, I am honoured to be guest posting for Cherie and Britney on Grain Crazy! Being fellow members of the Recipe Redux team, we follow the same philosophy of nutritious, but tasty, foods that can be accessible for everyone!

The Summer is drawing to a close. As much as I hate to think about the fact that Winter is only a short few months away, it also means back to school – something I actually looked forward to as a kid. School to me meant more time with friends (we all commuted from various locations so it wasn’t really a “next door neighbour” situation), seeing my favourite teachers again, and most importantly learning new and exciting things. I realize I’m an anomaly in this respect – talk to any kid about back to school and they will likely roll their eyes and complain. But then again, back to school also means back to school treats – whether they are tucked neatly into the lunchboxes or waiting to be eaten after school lets out for the day.

I know that one of the most coveted (and often traded) snacks when I was in elementary school was the granola bar. Apparently it’s still way up there in the rankings of kid-friendly treats, since while volunteering at my old elementary school (see how much I loved it?) this summer I saw one in almost every lunch box. Unfortunately most of the storebought ones are really just candy with a nutrition-friendly guise. I mean really, how do marshmallows, chocolate coatings and cookies with a smattering of oats and more ingredients than I ever knew could exist in a 24g bar make for a healthy option? Not to mention, most of the storebought bars hardly have any fibre, protein or healthy fats in them.

Luckily, homemade granola-type bars are easy to make with real food ingredients. With a basic recipe, you can really go to town by adding whatever your kids (or you!) are fans of. Since you can make a ton of them at once, then cut, wrap and freeze them, you’ll always have a snack on hand for those pre-dinner tummy rumbles (although I have to admit I like crumbling the frozen ones onto applesauce or lightly cooked berries too). My version was inspired by one I found in the book Farm Fresh Recipes from the Missing Goat Farm, but I added extra nutrition to these (admittedly) sweet, chewy bars are filled with gogi berries, a mashed banana, sunflower seeds, psyllium and a naturally sweetened vanilla soy isolate. Of course, so that kids would want to eat them (and boy, did they!), a few (real) chocolate chips and some homemade caramel sauce snuck in too. The whole mix is gluten-free, and if you use a coconut or soy milk alternative to make the caramel it’s nut free as well – great for any schoolroom!

Banana Berry Granola Bars
Serves 24
2 cups gluten-free quick cooking oats
1 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/4 cup ground psyllium husks
1/4 cup vanilla soy protein powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup gogi berries
1/2 cup honey-roasted sunflower seeds
1 large, over ripe banana
1/4 cup dark amber honey
1/4 cup homemade (or storebought) salted caramel sauce*
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup melted coconut oil

1.      Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9x13" pan with greased foil or parchment.
2.      In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, psyllium, protein powder, cinnamon, salt, chocolate chips, gogi berries and sunflower seeds.
3.      In another bowl, mash the banana with the honey, caramel sauce, brown sugar and coconut oil.
4.      Add to the dry mixture and stir well, until everything is thoroughly coated.
5.      Press into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
6.      Bake for 20 minutes.
7.      Cut into pieces while still warm - they will crumble when cut cold.

*Caramel Sauce (use a nut-free version if needed): www.yummysmells.ca/2013/01/simple-salted-caramel-sauce.html

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 178.0
Total Fat: 6.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 88.7 mg
Total Carbs: 29.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8 g
Protein: 4.2 g 

I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!

Proud participant in Recipe Redux, The Sunday Supper Movement, Gluten Free Friday, Wellness Weekends, Sugar & Slice Sunday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesdays, Holiday Food Party Events and the Eat the Alphabet Challenge



  1. Wow! Thanks again for the feature, loving it :-)

    1. Thank you! Your recipe looks so delicious and I can't wait to get my boys eating these instead of the store-bought ones!