Banana Bread Granola Bars

photo by   Jessica Chappe

This is a recipe that I made a lot last year when I was living in the dorms at Bard. I went to the cafeteria and loaded up on bananas, granola, and peanut butter and then smashed them all together with coconut oil and chocolate, baked them and shared them with my friends and professors. It is recipe that I've slightly adapted from my favorite blog The First Mess. After making these again in a kitchen where I have more control than I did in a dorm kitchen, I've realized that these bars are equally great warm or refrigerated. When you pop them in the refrigerator the coconut oil congeals and creates a fudge-like texture but they're vegan!

bars:
3 way-way ripe, regulation-sized bananas, peeled
3 tbsp almond butter (any nut or seed butter you love will do)
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil + extra for greasing the pan
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
3 cups simple granola
1/4 cup chopped dried fruit
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate 

chocolate drizzle:
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
splash of almond milk
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×11″ or an 8×12″ pan with coconut oil. Lay a piece of parchment into the pan (with overhang on the sides) and grease that with more coconut oil. Set aside.

2. Combine the bananas, almond butter, coconut oil, cinnamon and sea salt with your hands. Try to get the mixture to achieve an extra creamy texture. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine granola, dried fruit, and chocolate. Stir to mix. Add the creamy banana mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Scrape the granola bar mix into the prepared pan. Smooth the mix out, pressing down with a flat surface (measuring cup, spatula) until the mix has evenly filled the pan. Bake the bars for 40 minutes or until golden on the edges/top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly on a rack.

4. Once completely cool, lift the bars out of the pan with the overhanging parchment onto a cutting board. If you still feel residual heat emitting from the bars, allow them to cool down on the rack some more. Once ready, cut the slab right down the middle lengthwise. From here, cut the two halves into 8 bars each.

5. In a double boiler/non-reactive pan set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, combine the chocolate drizzle ingredients. Stir constantly with a spatula until chocolate is melted and a sauce forms. Drizzle over the cut granola bars. Refrigerate bars until chocolate is solidified, about 30 minutes. Keep the bars in a sealed container for about a week.

Note: Adapted from http://www.thefirstmess.com/2013/09/19/banana-bread-granola-bars/