Sunday marked the culmination of months and months of hard work and discipline for Mara and me (and Mara’s husband). For about four months we have been running and cross training in preparation of our third marathon. Sunday was the big day. We hit the roads of St. Louis (with about 17,000 other people) to compete in the Go! St. Louis Marathon. There were a couple of reasons this race was such an exciting occasion. First Mara and I were running to help raise money for Young Life, a non-denominational Christian organization reaching out to middle school and high school students. This organization has had a significant impact on both of us since our high school days and it was an honor to support it. Second, four of our girlfriends were inspired to train and run in the St. Louis Half-Marathon, which took place at the same time. So Shared Sugar and running friends made the trip to St. Louis with our entourage of support.
In preparation for the event, I whipped up some granola bars for the weekend. These granola bars have a little bit of everything in them but my personal favorites are the shredded coconut, dried cherries and pecans. I am not a huge fan of coconut but I have found that I really enjoy unsweetened coconut. It has a very natural taste and tends to know its place in dishes and doesn’t try to steal the show, unlike the sweetened counterpart. Recently I have been captivated by dried red tart cherries that I buy at the local natural food market. These cherries are large and delicious. I can eat them by the hand full. And then of course, I love pecans. I will put them in anything and they always do their pecanish thing, just as they did in these bars. Two other great things about this recipe: wheat germ and roasted cocoa nibs; both bounding with nutritional benefits.
I like these granola bars a lot. They are sweet but not too rich for breakfast (at least not for me) and they make a really nice snack during the day. They also have a good consistency of crunchy but still a bit chewy (as long as you don’t over-bake them). And you can easily substitute various nuts and dried fruit to your preference.
The weekend was win-win. Everyone enjoyed the bars AND everyone finished the race. It was a beautiful way to kick-off spring and enjoy the fruits of hard work. Cheers to Michelle, Kristen, Lindsay T., Lindsay W., Mara and Mike, toasting to many more races in exchange for many more desserts!
Cherry-Berry Pecan Granola Bars
- adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
makes 12 bars
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped if large
- 1/2 cup dried blueberries
- 3/4 cup roasted cocoa nibs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Then line it with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.
Combine the oats, pecans and coconut and spread evenly on a cookie sheet. Toast (mix once during toasting) until lightly browned, about 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mix-in the wheat germ, cardamom and cinnamon.
Reduce heat in the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Upon boiling, cook for one minute. Pour the heated mixture over the oat mixture. Add the cherries, blueberries and cocoa nibs. Mix until the dry ingredients are well coated.
Pour the mixture into the pan and spread evenly in the pan. Use the back of a wooden spoon or wet your fingers and press the mixture firmly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until lightly browned. Don’t overcook or the bars will be too hard. Cool for 2 to 3 hours. Cut into squares. Store in an airtight container.