White Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Granola Bars and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Cookies

To me, hiking was always something that people did when they didn’t feel like doing real sports. You know, sort of like ping pong, or chess. Not to say that any of these are illegitimate pastimes, but something about the idea of meandering up a hill at a glacial pace over a stretch of several hours seemed, well, anti-climactic.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went “real hiking” for the first time this summer back home with a friend. By the end of the first quarter mile up what I had previously dubbed a “little hill,” my legs were screaming (although thankfully I was out of breath enough not to muster up a vocal scream myself–one of the few perks of being completely unused to hill work) and I felt muscles working in my glutes that I never knew I had before.

Now, I’m by no means out of shape, but it was a real shock when–4000 feet in altitude and nearly 3 miles later–we reached the top, and I realized that I had had to fight my way up, caveman-versus-saber-tooth style. Think fire and sharpened sticks. It was a true battle.

In fact, every time I go hiking, it feels a bit like this (no joke):

Since then, I’ve given hikers a bit more credit than they’re due to make up for my previous lack of admiration. Heck, I’m even thinking about climbing Half Dome with my friends this summer, if you can believe it.

Of course, every good hiker needs a snack in her pack, so that’s where these granola bars kick in. They’re good for everything from the day-long hike to just a snack-on-the-go for those busy teaching days, or even a great light meal sub if you’re looking for that sort of thing. There’s no limit to the places you can take this bar, and what’s even better, you can fiddle around with the recipe to suit your own tastes. As our good old friend Theodore Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) would say, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

So now it’s a Seussian granola bar. But I digress.

I used a really basic (but incredible!) recipe for the base and then built my way up from there. Here, we have two variations: a peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar “cookie” (it came out tasting a bit like a PB oatmeal cookie bar, probably because the addition of peanut butter made it much denser), and my personal preference, the white chocolate cranberry coconut granola bar.

Aren’t they just adorable?

I also call these my theme park lifesavers, a.k.a. the key to surviving an entire day at Disneyland without ever once having to step out of line and stop for food. Because let’s face it–who has an appetite when there’s so much to be seen and done?

Okay, that was clearly a rhetorical question. I have a huge appetite at theme parks, and I’ll bet you do too, which is why I’m sharing this handy-dandy, snack-in-the-line recipe for your next mouse-eared outing! My roommate and I both agreed that these were probably the best granola bars we had ever tasted, and I’m just sad that I didn’t actually bring these along with me to the happiest place on earth (I started with another “set” recipe that turned out to be a half-dud. This one, on the other hand, is by far my favorite!)

I didn’t do a magnificent job documenting the process step by step–I’m still getting used to juggling a camera while my hands are coated in grease and other camera-wrecking substances–but there’s enough here by way of photo to get you through relatively well…

Chop up your almonds and toss them in with 3 cups of oats. Any nuts will do fine in this mix–walnuts, pecans, even peanuts–but I prefer almonds for granola bars, personally.

Stir in vanilla extract, 2 tbsp melted butter, and 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk until mixture is completely coated.

Split the mixture into two or more bowls for different flavors of granola (not pictured). Add ingredients as desired to each bowl–I did white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and sweetened coconut flakes for the one (amazing!), and peanut butter and chocolate chips for the other.

Press granola flat in the pan, until about 1/2 to 2/3-inch thick, depending on how thick and chewy you like your granola bars. I like mine thicker and chewier, so I don’t pat the bars to the edge (this keeps them from getting too crispy).

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 17-25 minutes, depending on your oven and how crispy/chewy you like your bars. Check periodically to prevent the granola from burning.

And voila! We have our fabulous peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars, which I’ve drizzled with a light peanut butter chocolate mixture.

I would also highly recommend this beautiful, tropical-style white chocolate cranberry coconut granola bar. I’ve never been a huge coconut fan, but it really does something wondrous to the bar’s texture and really heightens the flavor of the white chocolate chunks.

I’m including the base recipe, as well as the individual recipes for each the peanut butter chocolate and the white chocolate cranberry coconut. Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Granola Bar: Basic Recipe

Yield: 1 9×13-inch baking pan

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 (14 oz.) container sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups chopped almonds or other assorted nuts
  • 2 to 2.5 cups “other ingredients” (see below for recipe ideas)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, condensed milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add in chopped nuts. (At this point, if you want to make different flavors of granola bars, separate the mixture into different bowls.) Add other ingredients as desired; stir until mixture is completely coated.
  3. Press mixture lightly into bottom of greased pan. Leave 1 inch on the sides between the granola and the pan if you like chewier granola bars; this will prevent them from getting too crispy.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 – 25 minutes, depending on your crispy scale preference. Once the edges start turning golden brown, remove bars from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Quickly turn granola onto a cutting board and cut into bars.

For White Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Variation:

Add the following ingredients to your “basic” granola bar recipe (this is for the entire 9×13-inch baking pan):

  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

For Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Variation:

Add the following ingredients to your “basic” granola bar recipe (this is for the entire 9×13-inch baking pan):

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter

For the peanut butter chocolate drizzle, melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips in the microwave on medium power for 20 seconds. Add 1/4 cup peanut butter and heat for another 20 seconds on medium power, or until peanut butter and chocolate is melted when stirred.

Remember: You can be as innovative as you want with this recipe–add M&M’s, raisins, butterscotch chips, or whatever else strikes your fancy! I’d love to hear your stories and creations!

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8 Replies to “White Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Granola Bars and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Cookies”

  1. Hiking can be work! Good work, and fun – but still, work. And these little beauties are just the thing to keep you going when you’re on the go. I’ve never made them, but they look so easy – and flavorful. Good stuff – thanks.

    1. I find myself actually looking for excuses to go hiking now just so I can whip up a batch of these and munch on them all day while feeling moderately justified for doing so. They definitely tip the balance of hiking trips towards fun–hope you’ll get a chance to make them next time you go!

  2. These would make amazing half dome snacks. Defiently a must if you go, they will be life savers.
    Light, high in protien tasty and a little suger to give you the kick you need to keep going.
    Hiking is just like baking you put a lot of energy to make it to a great place or the finished good but you always over eat and feel stuffed aka getting back down from where you came from.

    1. Did I ever tell you I love your metaphors? I always leave hiking with a slightly high feeling…but then again, that might be the sugar from the bars. But I guess I could imagine feeling “stuffed” with the great views of a hike!

  3. These look like excellent snacks, but also good lunchbox treats for my daughters!

    1. I hope you’ll get a chance to make these for them–I’m a total supporter of healthy lunchbox treats, and I’m sure you’ll have even more fun than I did playing with the recipe to suit their tastes!

  4. Wait, really? First time hiking? Well I hope you had fun, even without those granola bars 😛
    Just wanted to add that these are also great indoors, in front of the computer, while watching tv, when you’re too lazy to make yourself lunch…
    And yes, they travel great, even via USPS. Although I suppose I have no excuse not to start making them for myself now that I’ve found the recipe here.

    1. If I could superlike this comment, I would. As I can’t, however, I’m just going to settle for telling you that a) our hiking adventures are going to be amazing after this, b) on second thought, our hiking adventures were always amazing, and c) Did I mention that I’m not sending any of these to St. Louis? These were a teaser and bribery for you to come home. muahaha. On that note, I hope you don’t learn to make them too well yourself…

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