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Ten Minute Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

written by Marsha Seidelman, M.D.

Adapted from onceuponachef.com.

This recipe literally took 10 minutes to prepare and is easily adapted to your own preferences.  It's a healthy option for a pre-workout snack.

In the comments section of the onceuponachef recipe, a reader mentioned using coconut sugar instead of brown sugar because it was healthier than the usual refined sugars.  I did purchase some, since I was about to try the recipe, but later researched it further.  Since people are always looking for a healthier way to have something sweet, the claims about this sugar have evidently made it into a recent craze, unbeknownst to me.  The claims are that it is less refined and has a lower glycemic index so it doesn't raise your blood sugar as much as white or brown sugar.  There aren't any studies supporting these claims; the most reliable source I found stated that not only shouldn't we count on added benefits, but that deriving this sugar from the flower buds of the coconut trees makes those flowers unable to produce coconuts.  Increased use of the sugar, therefore, might decrease the supply and increase the price of the coconuts themselves.  Now that I've tried it, though, thinking that it had some health benefits, I can say that the taste is much more interesting than plain sugar.  It has a chocolate or caramel taste to it and can be used for baking, in coffee, or other usual sugar uses.  It has the same nutritional content as other sugar -- 1 teaspoon has 4 grams of sugar and 15 calories. So, if you're like me and enjoy experimenting with new tastes, go for it -- just don't believe that it's better for you than other sugars.

Here's the recipe for the granola bars.  Feel free to substitute different nuts. Serves 18 or 24, depending on the size of the bar

Cook Time: 10 minutes; 2 hours (with refrigeration to set)

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
5 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heaping 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups quick-cooking/instant oats, such as Quaker Quick 1-Minute Oats (do not use regular old-fashioned oats)
1-3/4 cups Brown Rice Crispies (Whole Foods)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup flax meal or wheat germ (I used hemp hearts)
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (or to taste) (or dried fruit)

Directions:

1) Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray the foil lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

2) In a large pot, combine the butter, oil, sugar and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.

3) Add the oats, rice cereal, almonds and flax meal (or wheat germ, hemp hearts) to the pan and fold with a rubber spatula until well combined.

4) Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press down lightly with a rubber spatula to even out. Sprinkle the miniature chocolate chips over top, adding more or less to suit your taste, and press down firmly with the spatula so the chips stick.The mixture should be tightly compacted in the pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 1.5 - 2 hours to cool.

5) Use the foil overhang to transfer the uncut bars to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut into rectangles. Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you have to stack them, be sure to use parchment paper or foil in between the layers, otherwise they'll stick together and fall apart.

Note: If you are substituting dried fruit for the chocolate chips, mix it in along with the other ingredients as opposed to sprinkling over top.

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