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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Dark Chocolate and Cranberry Monkey Bars

Group effort today!

We will readily admit we got the idea (and the basic recipe) for this from This blog is fantastic for gluten free recipes and we will sure be trying (and varying) many more of their recipes too. But this is the first one we did. Monkey bars are basically a peanutty cashewy chocolatey bananaey cranberry-y mapley syrupy granola bar. Sounds amazing, doesn't it? Well it is. If you can make these without eating half the mixture before it's made, hats off to you. This recipe is incredible. It's high in protein, so a great one for the gym-goers, and because it's high in energy it works well as a mid afternoon snack to stop you craving a sugar rush (OK, so it's kind of a sugar rush in itself, but it contains healthy stuff too like flax and nuts so it's OK, right?). And you can change it up however you like. This is what we did though...

2 cups rolled or jumbo oats (gluten free if needed)
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup milled flaxseed
1/4 cup oat bran
2tbsp maple syrup
2tbsp golden syrup (you can use 4 tbsp of one of these but we decided to try a bit of both)
1/2 cup peanut butter (we used crunchy)
1/4 cup honey
1 large banana, very ripe and mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
50g dark chocolate chunks, 50g dried cranberries (this bit can be whatever you like!)

Preheat oven to 350C. In a large bowl, mix the oats, oat bran, flax, cashews, cinnamon and syrup so that the mixture is coated. Place in a oven suitable dish and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning after five. KEEP CHECKING IT and do not let this mixture burn. Once golden, remove from the oven and let it cool down completely.
Whilst the oats are in the oven, mash the banana and add the peanut butter and honey. Cook this in a pan on medium heat until it becomes a runny mixture, and after about 5 minutes remove from the heat and add the vanilla and salt. Let this mixture cool completely too.
Once cooled (and make sure they are cool, especially if you're using something melty such as chocolate), mix the oat mixture and butter mixture together, and add the chocolate/cranberries/whatever your flavour in here.
Spread the mixture flat in the dish you're using (we found this was enough to fill two pyrex dishes, but the original recipe recommends a 9x5 baking pan) and bake for about 25 minutes, again do not let burn. Once baked, cut into your desired size bar, and there you have it: monkey bars.

I think there are loads of variations that need to be tried with this recipe - try adding the zest of an orange to the buttery mixture, use other berries such as raspberries and blueberries, replace the cranberries with raisins, add some dessicated coconut, grate an apple and add that instead of chocolate...the list is endless. You could also try other nut butters - almond would be lovely - and other nuts such as peanuts, hazelnuts or macadamia (white chocolate macadamia monkey bars anyone?).  Let us know what you think and what works best for you. And don't eat them all as quickly as Jess did :)

Also, when we say cup, don't go on the internet trying to convert cups to grams. Just literally measure everything out using the same cup. A coffee mug is perfect. Cups are actually a really sensible way to keep the proportions right without having to bother with scales, and recipes like this really don't require strict adherence to grams or lbs!

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