The Great Granola Bar Challenge

If you have heard one thing about our Epic Sister Trip to Joshua Tree, then you have probably heard about the homemade granola bars from Natural Sisters Cafe (pictured above.)

We ate our first Natural Sister granola bars – one was Mango Peptia, the other was Chocolate Blueberry – midway through our hike along Joshua Tree’s Lost Palms Oasis Trail. The first bites were life-affirming. The thick granola bars sparkled with sweetness, and bursted with creamy almond butter.

After that, we ate the granola bars almost everyday we were in Joshua Tree. We left Joshua Tree as a changed woman:  We realized we could no longer eat ordinary, packaged energy bars.

That’s when we kicked off the granola bar challenge. We became determined to re-create the Natural Sisters granola bar.

The first granola bars I made – following this recipe from Food52 – didn’t turn out so hot. They weren’t a disaster, but they didn’t hold their shape. In the end, the bars made for great granola.

Julie followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and said they turned out great. (Pictured above.)

Not to be discouraged, I next followed this Eating Well recipe for Almond Honey Protein Bars. Or, I tried to follow the recipe, but got distracted and forgot to add the cup of rice cereal. These bars turned out very dense, but I could tell I was on the right track.

I figured the third time would either be the charm, or I would strike out. I followed the Eating Well recipe again, correctly this time.

And they turned out awesome.

I’m already brainstorming my next flavor combinations.

Below is the recipe for Almond-Honey Protein Bars, directly from Eating Well:


1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon flaxseeds, preferably golden

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 cup unsweetened whole-grain puffed cereal (see Note)

1/3 cup currants

1/3 cup chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup chopped golden raisins

1/4 cup creamy almond butter

1/4 cup turbinado sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.
  2. Spread oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the oats are lightly toasted and the nuts are fragrant, shaking the pan halfway through. I took the mixture out after 15 minutes, to avoid burning it.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, currants, apricots and raisins; toss to combine.
  4. Combine almond butter, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles lightly, 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. Immediately pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until no dry spots remain. Transfer to the prepared pan. Lightly coat your hands with cooking spray and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer (wait until the mixture cools slightly if necessary).
  6. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes; cut into 8, according to Eating Well. Or, cut little pieces off all week, and then wonder where it all went 🙂

Do you have a go-to homemade granola bar? Or do you have a favorite energy bar that tastes almost-homemade? Tell me about it!


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