Carrot Granola Bars with Dried Cranberries and Pecans

I seem to be adding vegetables to everything these days, and even the granola bars aren't safe.  I've been working on the Peanut Butter & Banana Granola Bar recipe to make it even healthier and taste just as good, and I've definitely struck the right balance with these Carrot Granola Bars.

It's a challenge working with oat-based recipes because the oats don't have much flavor on their own, so you really need to infuse them with as much flavor as possible to make them taste good.  The real struggle is keeping the oat recipe healthy by limiting the sugar and fat added along the way.

Vegetable purées are answer to this dilemma. If you pick the right vegetable, like carrots or sweet potatoes, you get some natural sugar from the vegetable itself and lots of moisture that takes the place of added oil.  Jessica Seinfeld discusses the use of vegetable purées in her cookbooks, Deceptively Delicious and Double Delicious, and provides recipes that make use of the purées.

I really love the idea, and not just for kids.  We all need to "trick" ourselves into eating extra vegetables from time to time and think outside of the box.  When you can eat a carrot by eating a granola bar, it takes a lot of the pressure off as far as getting more vegetables into your diet.  And once you start adding extra vegetables to your recipes, you'll be surprised how easy it is to get all the recommended servings.  

These Carrot Granola Bars are just sweet enough to taste like a treat, and definitely healthy enough to eat as a quick breakfast or snack between meals.  

Carrot Granola Bars with Dried Cranberries & Pecans (Makes about 12 bars)
2 cups quick-cook oats
1/2 cup of your favorite high fiber cereal (Uncle Sam’s)
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp salt (use ¼ teaspoon if the nuts that you add are salted)
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted*
1/4 cup chopped pecans, unsalted toasted
¼ cup sunflower seeds, unsalted and toasted
3 Tbsp dried cranberries or cherries, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp orange juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup carrot purée**
1 egg

*Toast for 3-4 minutes at 350 degrees, until the coconut turns a golden brown color.  You can toast the nuts at the same time, but use a separate tray because the coconut will take less time than pecans.  

**You can make carrot purée by either steaming or microwaving the carrots and then processing them in a blender or food processor with a few teaspoons of water.  Just for reference, I used about 4 larger carrots (the kind that have the green tops on them seem to have more flavor) to make about 1 cup of purée and cut them into 3/4-inch slices.  To get the best results, cut them all the same size and they'll cook pretty evenly.    

Steaming will take about 10-12 minutes.  You can also microwave the carrots in 2-3 Tablespoons of water (depending on how many carrots you’re using) in one-minute intervals until you can easily insert a fork into a piece of carrot.

Transfer the cooked carrots to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the pitcher or bowl as necessary.  Store the leftovers in the refrigerator if you plan on using them within the week, or freeze them in ½-cup portions so that you have purée ready when you need it. 

I haven’t gotten to the point where I make purées on the weekends and then freeze a whole bunch of them yet, but it’s definitely a great option.  They sell silicone muffin tins that would be perfect for freezing the purées, and then you can just pop them out and store them long-term in a freezer bag.          

1. Mix together of oats, cereal, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, toasted coconut, pecans, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries in a large mixing bowl.    

2. Mix together the maple syrup, honey, OJ, vanilla, carrot purée, and egg separately in a smaller bowl.  (You can use a blender if you like). 

3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the mixture is evenly coated. 

4. Transfer the granola mixture to your prepared baking pan. 

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the edges just start to brown.  Allow the granola bars to cool before cutting them into squares.  I pull the granola bars out of the pan right away using the parchment, and then set the parchment paper on a cooling rack and let the bars fully cool before cutting them.  
6.  Cut into about 12 pieces and store in an airtight container.  These can also be frozen for longer storage.  

Here are the nutrition facts for one granola bar, assuming you cut them into 12 equal pieces.  

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 60 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A 46%Vitamin C 6%
Calcium 2%Iron 5%

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