Nut free school zone safe homemade granola bars that are fruit sweetened, and definitely kid approved!
I feel like every mid September I start to feel the crunch. As in…you have T-minus 2 more months until that weather turns, and instead of sinking your toes in the sand and soaking up the sun’s rays, you’ll be sinking your toes into warm, wool socks and soaking in the warmth from thick blankets while snow surrounds your house!
We are on the go until that winter mess happens, and that means snacks need to be portable!
My granola bar nemesis conquered…
Granola bars have been on my goal list for at least 2 years now. I just could never get them right. I tried a few recipes when my oldest started Kindergarten a few years back, but the ingredients were never to my standard using puffed cereals, rice syrup, and oats that weren’t properly prepared. I would make swaps to meet my ingredient goals, and the whole darn thing would fall apart.
Turns out you really need the right kind of “sticky-ness,” and *just* the right ratios of solids to liquids to get these puppies to hold. I would give up for a couple months and then re-visit them…and this time around, I hit the nail on the head!
So worth 6 batches!
If you are a follower to my Instagram school lunch posts (just search the hashtag #rgnschoollunch on IG!), you are going to be seeing these granola bars often this year. The girls are obsessed with them, and they are going fast. I did end up making 6 batches to make sure my consistency was perfect with certain swaps, and I have a nice stash of them in the freezer for quick, pack-able school morning snacks or lunchbox additions. I have been grabbing them to go for myself as well.
Minimal prep is the name of my game!
Listen, I know it is just as easy to grab a healthier version of granola bars at the store. So my goal in making these was not only to make the nutrition far superior to that found in store bought granola bars, but I also needed it to be something I was willing to make weekly, or even just monthly to keep in my school packing rotation. I don’t have extra time to be spending on picky little steps and long drawn out processes for making a simple granola bar.
You are going to flip at how easily these come together!
Nut free school zone safe!
While my kiddos are not at a nut free school, I have been feeling the questions from you, my dear readers, about nut free snacks for your kids who may be in nut free schools, or who have kids at home that need to be nut free. These granola bars are seed based, and even if you don’t have kids that have to be nut free, it is such a good idea to keep a variety of foods in front of them so they are getting different nutrients.
Hold up! These are not just for nut free kids!
My kids tolerate nuts and eat nuts just fine, but let’s face it….Between that PBJ a couple times per week at school, granola or nuts on their oatmeal once or twice a week, and using almond flour here and there for baked goods, it doesn’t hurt to change things up a bit. I fully plan on making these granola bars with some different nut varieties too, but it was a really fun challenge to make these completely seed based so that our nut free friends could enjoy them too.
Change it up!
Since these granola bars are SO easy to make, they will soon become a staple in your lunchbox packing game! Here are some ways to change things up so that you can keep things interesting!
- Swap the raisins for another dried fruit (dried cranberries, dried mango, dried apples, dried blueberries, dried apricot) or healthier option chocolate chip
- Swap the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice and use dried apples for a fun fall flavor.
- Change out the seed butter for different flavor seed butters or, if you tolerate nuts you could try some different nut butters.
- If you tolerate nuts, you could swap some of the seeds for nuts.
- 6 large Medjool dates soaked in warm water to soften, plus 3 tbsp of the date water to make the date paste (I find our dates in the produce section at our local grocer or at Costco)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds (I buy coconut shreds in bulk at our local health food store)
- 1 cup raw pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds), coarsely chopped (I buzzed them up about 5 long pulses in my food processor)
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds, coarsely chopped (I buzzed them up about 5 long pulses in my food processor)
- 2 tbsp flax seed meal (I buy our flax seed meal at Costco)
- 2 tbsp chia seeds (I buy our chia seeds at Costco)
- ¾ cup - 1 cup raisins
- 1 tsp sea salt (if your seeds or seed butter are salted, you will want to cut this back by at least half)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup tahini (This is sesame seed butter. Sunflower seed butter should work too. Or if you tolerate nuts, use a nut butter of choice like almond or peanut butter. I think the biggest thing to keep in mind with the seed or nut butters is that you want something that doesn't have a bunch of other added ingredients/oils/sugar etc. Just check the ingredient labels.)
- Fill a small bowl with warm/hot water from the tap and place the dates in the warm water while you prep the rest of the ingredients. They need to soak at least 5-10 minutes to moisten and soften.
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees, and line a small baking pan with parchment paper. There is no need to grease the pan or the paper. Make sure the sides of the paper go over the sides of the pan so you can lift the granola bar mixture out of the pan easily.
- Put the pepitas, sunflower seeds, flax meal, chia seeds, raisins, salt, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl, and stir with a spoon to combine.
- Pit the dates, and put them into a blender along with 3 tablespoons of the warm water that the dates were soaking in. Blend to make a smooth date “paste.” Put the date paste and tahini in a small sauce pan. Warm the date paste/tahini mixture until it melts and starts to sizzle a little, stirring along the way. This only needs about 1 minute to melt and warm so that it is easier to mix into the seeds.
- Stir the warm date paste/tahini mixture into the mixing bowl with the seeds using a spatula. It will be thick and sticky. It will seem dry at first but do not add more moisture or they will not set right. It will start to combine as you mix.
- Press the granola bar mixture into the parchment paper lined baking sheet. I use my hands – press it in tight. Press it into the sides and corners, and slide the edges and corners down to compact in.
- Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes, take them out of the oven, and use the back of a wooden spoon t gently press the granola down a bit more so it really compacts in to set. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then use the parchment paper sides to lift the solid bar mixture onto a cooling rack to finish cooling (I keep it on the parchment paper while on the cooling rack). Do NOT cut the bars until they are cooled – it sets up as it cools off, and it will fall apart if you cut it while it is still hot.
- Once the granola is cooled, cut the bars into the sizes you want, and either freeze or store in an airtight container.