Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars

by brookefiore

For better or for worse I have a very strong tendency to tie scents, songs, and sightings to both distant and recent memories alike. Sometimes it will have me moving CDs to the back of the closet to take a bit of a hiatus and sometimes on snowy commutes like today I become lost in thoughts of baking up something warm and delicious as I pad across the kitchen to marvel at how much quieter the street looks when it snows, as if the flakes are like little sound sponges.

This particular memory stems from a “girl’s night in” back in middle school when we ordered pizza from Universal Market and baked chocolate chip cookies as a layer of feather-like snow blanketed our small town. The cool tile of the kitchen floor felt good against my feet because the warmth of good friends, gossip, and the oven was aplenty.

Even though I have since forgotten most of my middle school memories – most likely for the better – this one has stuck and thus I find myself baking up chocolate coconut granola bars in place of cookies some eleven years later as my own way of welcoming the snow. As I have grown up I’ve adapted a more practical approach to things and therefore these bars will also serve as a convenient pack and go breakfast for weekday mornings.

Sometimes I am stopped in my tracks by something so mundane to the outsider it almost seems absurd even in my own mind. But the way the memories come flooding back when I catch the sunlight filtering through the tree line casting a single beam on Ram Island as our deck sits in the shadow evokes memories the late November days of my childhood when thoughts of Santa and snow days were my biggest priorities. 

Reading this may make it seem as though I walk through life tied down by memories and it could make you wonder how I ever have the ability to make new memories if I am so busy recalling years past. This is what amazes me most about the way I recall memories, the ability to connect the dots of life without even knowing when a time or place, or voice or aroma is going to claim a spot next to the many memories in the microfiche of my mind.

These chocolate coconut bars come together nicely with a bit of milk, brown sugar, and honey. Pumpkin, oats, nuts, and dried fruit bring some fiber to the mix giving that stick-to-your-ribs appeal of wintertime foods without the burden of flour or butter.

Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars

Recipe adapted from Pastry Affair

Makes about 10 – 4 by 1 1/2” bars

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup dried cherries and cranberries, halved

1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

2 TBSP honey

3/4 cup pureed pumpkin (canned or homemade)

1/4 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 375 F and butter or spray an 8×8” baking dish. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until moistened throughout. Firmly pack mixture into the baking dish forming an even layer and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. The refrigerator can speed up the cooling process. Cut bars and store in air tight containers.