Denver Granola Bars

Granola Bars.  Such a wonderful thought.  Then you open a wrapper of a bar so hard you can use it as a sanding block.

So you get a "chewy" granola bar.  Oh, did I say "granola bar?"  I meant candy bar.  Because they are so overly sweet, they're just candy bars. 

If only you could have a real granola bar.  A bar that was chewy, but not sweet.  One that was fruit forward, but not candy-like.  A bar that John Denver would be proud of.  That's right.  God Damn John Denver.  Well, wait no longer.

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350º.  That means let it get to 350º.  Use a thermometer.  Don't just turn it on for 5 minutes and say its good enough.

Get a piece of parchment paper that you can press in the bottom of a 9x13 pan and have it go up all 4 sides.  Try to kind of fold it so it stays in place a bit.  The wait of the granola will keep it down, but you don't want it flopping all over the place as you're trying to cook.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the nuts and coconut till the coconut is golden, mixing every few minutes.  It should take about 7-10 minutes, but depends on the size of your baking pan.  The goal is golden brown.  Not the time.

Once its done, set it aside to cool for about 15 minutes.  That was a lot of work.  Now's a good time to reward yourself with a nice coffee or a shot of Bailey's.

OK, now that you're wired or drunk,mix the oats, toasted nuts and coconut, berries, and the brown rice cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, combine the rice syrup, turbinado sugar, salt and vanilla.  Stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to Hard-Ball stage.  That's a candy term for 250º-265ºF (121º-130ºC). Use a Thermometer or take a chance at about 4 minutes or so.  Then let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Sure you could do this while the coconut is toasting,  but then where would the time be for a drink?

Pour the syrup over the oat mixture and mix until it is evenly incorporated.

Spread the mixture into the parchment lined pan.  If you're not adding the Dark Chocolate, press it down REALLY firmly.  Then you can put it in the fridge for 5 minutes then set it on the counter.

If you are doing the Dark Chocolate, don't press it down KINDA hard.  Put it in the fridge for 5 minutes, take it out, sprinkle the chopped Chocolate on top and then press it down REALLY hard.

So now you are done.  Let them cool completely and then cut into bars.  You can wrap each bar in plastic wrap, because they are still a wee bit sticky.

Item Amount
Main Ingredients:
Rolled Oats 1 3/4 cup
Brown Rice Cereal, unsweetened 1 ½ cup
Berries, Mixed dried (cherries, blueberries and cranberries)1 cup
Almonds, sliced1 cup
Coconut, Shreded and unsweetened 2/3 cup
Turbinado Sugar2 TBS
Brown Rice Syrup 3/4 cups
Salt ½ tsp
Vanilla Extract 1 tsp
Garnish and Serve:
Chopped Dark Chocolate (optional) ¼ cup

Tips: Dont let the mixture get too cold before you put the chocolate on it, or they won't stick. 

Low-Fat Options: Omit the Chocolate chips.  And don't eat so much.