Think granola bars, packed with all sorts of goodies that not only bring a jolt of complimenting flavors, but plenty of texture and chew. To exaggerate and heighten the natural essence of the bulk ingredients, the old-fashioned rolled oats, almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds were first toasted in the oven until they were fragrant and golden. If you don't want to turn on the oven just for this, you can do this in a large skillet - just be sure to keep them moving in the pan and don't have the heat too high.
Puffed cereal, preferably whole-grain and unsweetened (I used Kashi 7-grain puff cereal) was then added to the mix once the nuts and seeds had cooled down, along with a bit of milled flaxseed and a variety of dried fruit. I went with currants, plump golden raisins and chopped dates, but use what you like - cherries, blueberries, pineapple, apple or apricots would fit in well.
To add sweetness and bind all those loose bits together, creamy natural almond butter, golden sticky honey, brown sugar, our favorite Vietnamese cinnamon and a touch of salt are all brought together in a saucepan, then heated to a low bubble to smooth them out. Taking the pan off the stove, a splash of fragrant vanilla was the last added ingredient to be stirred in. The directions stated to add the vanilla right away, but I don't agree with that - vanilla tends to dissipate and not have as much of an impact when added over a flame.
When you pour this syrupy concoction over the nut and oat mixture, you'll want to work quickly while it is still warm to make sure the pieces get as coated as possible - as it cools, it will begin to set and not mix as well. Scooped into a square pan, use your hands to firmly press the ingredients down to an even thickness - if you find it is a touch sticky, lightly coating your hands with cooking spray will help keep them clean. If the mixture is still too warm for your fingers (I think I have asbestos hands!), a silicone spatula might be the way to go.
I left the mass to cool at room temperature and it was solid enough to cut within an hour or so - if you can't wait, toss the pan in the fridge and it should be good to go in less than thirty minutes. The texture of these was just what we were hoping for - firm, definitely chewy (without sticking to your teeth) and there was plenty of crunch from the nuts and seeds. Between the dried fruits and sugars, the bars do lean on the sweeter side, even though I reduced the amount of brown sugar slightly, but we found that to be a benefit rather than a hindrance. If you like your granola-type bars with a hint of chocolate, melt a couple chunks of quality bittersweet chocolate and add a generous drizzle over the top before slicing the oat-y slab into individual bars.
Almond-Honey Power Bars