Chewy Cacao Granola Bars

These homemade granola bars are free of refined sugar, gluten, and dairy!

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup raisins, dried cherries or other dried fruit

1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds, walnuts or peanuts

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut a piece of parchment paper 8 inches wide, and place it in an 8” x 8” baking pan, with the edges hanging over to make handles for easy removal of the finished bars.

On a sheet pan, spread the oats and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden in spots. Let cool on a rack.

Place the cooled oats in a large bowl and add the dried fruit, nuts, cocoa and salt and stir to mix well.

In a medium bowl, combine the applesauce, honey and vanilla. Stir until smooth, then pour over the oat mixture. Stir until well mixed, then spread in the prepared pan. Using a spatula, press the mixture firmly and evenly in the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the bars feel firm when pressed. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then use the parchment to lift the bars out and let cool completely. Cut 3-by-4 to make 12 bars. Store, tightly wrapped, for up to 4 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator.

GF V veg DF

Yield: 12 servings