Dark Chocoalte and Cherry Granola Bars

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Was I really a college freshman more than a decade ago?

Definitely. I came to this realization last week when I was trying to figure out why the college freshmen looked so… young. Then it hit me. I wasn’t young anymore, I was… old. At least according to the standards of the short-short wearing, midriff exposed babies walking around campus who were suspiciously eyeing my pencil skirt and cardigan combo.

It’s safe to say that I have no desire to repeat all night study sessions or share a 200 square-foot dorm room with a roommate. No thank you. But the college experience is so much more than that, and I definitely miss many of the aspects of college life. As I’ve watched the students around campus it’s brought back memories of my years in college, which is what prompted me to create a list of advice that I would give my college freshman self.

1. Less is more, when it comes to packing for your dorm room.

2. Spend more time studying than you did in high school; get to know a few professors really well; pick campus activities that matter to you and get involved; go out of your way to make friends with classmates who are quiet, may be struggling; and leave time to have fun!

3. Communal showers exist. Say goodbye to privacy until Thanksgiving break. And remember flip-flops in the bathroom. No exceptions.

4. Look for cheap textbooks online. There’s no reason you need to pay $100 plus dollars on your science textbook. The bookstore clearly does not have your best interest in mind—try looking on Amazon.

5. Learn to get along with your quirky roommate. Make a cleaning chart, set some ground rules—whatever it takes to make these next nine months bearable.

6. Whatever you do, don’t mix drinking and social media (because you’re obviously underage). On the topic of drinking, it is rampant on most campuses. Don’t be an idiot. Enjoy yourself responsibly.

7. Don’t freak out if your major is undecided. Remember everyone is lost at some point. You’ll figure it out.

8. Have fun, college is the time to make the mistakes you’ll laugh at for years to come.

9. Take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Go on adventures. Actually do the things you were excited about whenever you thought about college. If that means being an activist when no one else is, then activist away, I tell you! If it means sitting in your jammies, reading some textbooks on your porch and drinking lemonade, then get a place with the most kick-ass porch there is.

10. Most importantly, relax and BREATHE. These really will be the best four years of your life.

With respect to number nine above, it can be hard to eat healthy when you’re in college. The freshman 15 isn’t just a joke. It’s important to have healthy snacks that are close on hand, and even better yet ones you can make on your own. When my mom sent me this recipe for granola bars, it seemed like the perfect snack to have on hand. Whether you’re a college freshman, or an “old” person that just needs a snack to make it through the afternoon. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Granola Bars 

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Ingredients
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Then lightly oil or spray with cooking spray.

Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet then bake 5 minutes, stir and bake another 3 to 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves. Pour butter mixture in to bowl with toasted oats and almonds. Mix well. Let cool about 5 minutes then add cranberries and a 1/4 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Stir to combine.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan then use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Remove block of granola mixture from pan then peel away aluminum foil. Cut into 12 bars.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
This recipe is pretty forgiving so feel free to try out a mixture of nuts and dried fruits that sounds tasty to you. I was thinking that macadamia nuts with white chocolate and coconut would be a fun mixture!

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20 thoughts on “Dark Chocoalte and Cherry Granola Bars

  1. I love granola bars! Told myself I’d make some myself one day. Think I might try since you supplied the recipe. I think the boys would like a s’mores one.

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    • Granola bars had been on my “to bake” list forEVER! Once I finally got around to them, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I think the s’mores idea sounds delicious! I might even have to try those! Just an FYI, they keep best in the fridge for storage!

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  2. Mmmm, these sound delicious and healthy too. I have only recently started eating granola – I know everyone else has been munching it for years – but I was late to the granola party! I have yet to have a granola bar, perhaps I should bake up a batch of these.

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  3. Great post, Heather!!! One to treasure for the years to come … for my daughter. We didn’t go to college because in Italy we do not have it: Stefano and I went directly from high school to postgraduate university.
    Back to the point, I love everything about your granola bars: how gorgeous and yummy they look in the pictures, the ingredients, the color of the napkin. Lovely done, Heather. :-)

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  4. Thanks Francesca! How interesting, I didn’t know that. How many years of schooling are there before postgraduate university? I still remember leaving my parents for college- it was so difficult at first but then got easier once I started meeting people.

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    • Hi Heather,
      Wonderful post, yummy granola bars, gorgeous photographs and great advice for college freshmen to top it all off!
      To answer your question for Francesca, in Italy kids go through 13 years of lower education (5 elementary, 3 middle school, 5 high school) starting age 6. When they graduate from high school at age 19, those who want to continue to study need to choose right away which postgratuate university to apply for (law school, med school, engineering…) and generally postgraduate school is another 5 years before graduation. One of the reasons why the Italian system is flawed is that when you are 19 you generally have no idea what you really want to do in life and locking yourself in a specific path so early can be a mistake.

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      • Thank you Stefano! And what a wonderful explanation of the school system, I really wasn’t familiar with it at all. I can definitely imagine that it’s tricky essentially deciding what you want to do with your life at age 19. I don’t think I had any idea what I wanted when I was that young!!

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  5. Your mom told me about this recipe when I saw her on Friday night. I can’t wait to try it and share with my sisters because we all love granola. I might break it into smaller chunks to eat with my daily yogurt.

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    • Hi Gwen! My mom was telling me that you guys had such a wonderful time on Friday. I only wish that I could have been there! The desserts that you made looked so delicious :) This is a tasty recipe, I had it with fruit in the morning for a couple breakfasts after I made it.

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  6. These bars look fabulous! (It’s seriously the first time I’ve ever been tempted to consider making my own granola bars, too… and I’ve seen a lot of other recipes on other blogs. : )

    And I like your list; I was also a college freshman more than a decade ago. …but was Amazon even around back then for us to order all of our textbooks online? Haha, I can’t even remember! It was definitely still the era of huge desktop computers with pitiful amounts of storage space, and AOL instant messenger…

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  7. I have a grand idea. Let’s make these bars together when we visit and then dad and I can munch on them all the way home!! I am getting hungry just looking at your pretty pictures.

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  8. Yum! These bars look amazing Heather! I love chocolate and cherries together, particularly with chewy oats. You could market these and make a killing! Re college, great insights in this post. It’s been almost 8 years since I graduated from uni and I feel old too. I hate it! But I could possibly eat one of these bars and feel a little better… they’d make wonderful work snacks too! xx

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    • I was totally surprised how old I feel around campus!! But then the best thing about being done with college is that you have time for things like a baking blog! I’ve always loved to cook, but I’ll admit that I didn’t do too much when I was in college. Usually only when I was trying to procrastinate on an assignment or something ;)

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