I’m Writing A Cookbook + Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars

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Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars

I’ve got some big news for the new year: I’m writing a cookbook! It’s so crazy to type that out! Not only am I writing a cookbook but it’s being published by one of my favorite publishers, Chronicle Books (they put out the amazing Tartine series and Handmade Baking, just to name a few)! It’s a total dream come true and I’ve spent the last year going through a whirlwind of emotions with the whole thing: excitement, anxiety, amazement, doubt, gittiness, exhaustion, joy, nervousness, frustration, and pretty much any other extreme emotion under the sun!

Well, to back up a bit, I said I’m writing a cookbook but I actually already wrote the cookbook – I spent the majority of 2015 working on it and finally turned the manuscript in at the end of December. I know, I know – how did I manage to keep this from you for so long? Why did I keep it from you? Well, I wasn’t sure how to tell you; it’s such a big deal for me that I wanted to throw a huge party and invite you all over and feed you cake to share the good news but that’s not realistic so instead I just kept putting it off…waiting for the right words to come but they never did. Plus, the book doesn’t come out until spring of 2017 so it just felt so far away to mention it. But at the same time, it was so hard not to mention something! To try to explain why I was a little MIA towards the end of last year and to try and contain my excitement and talk about the mundane of everyday when I had just spent 12 hours recipe testing and perfecting a recipe that I wouldn’t get to show you for another 18 months.

So, yeah, long story short, I’m writing a cookbook and can’t wait to show it to you! It’s an extension of what I already have going on around here with even more adventure and food that is meant to inspire a moment. It’s about seeing cooking as an adventure and how using both comforting and exciting new ingredients can create a meal worth remembering; whether that’s a nourishing picnic by the lake after a day in the sun or a simple weeknight meal shared with a loved one, the book is meant to get you excited about the adventures we can create around eating. I’m excited to share the process (now that it’s out there that I’m working on it) and explain all the behind the scenes that have gone into my first book deal. I’m excited to show you a little bit of what living in the Midwest as a vegetarian is like and how it has shaped the backbone of the book. I’ll still be around here once a week (as usual) but will also be doing book shoots on the weekends which will include me sharing some behind the scene photos via my instagram.

Thanks for sharing this exciting time with me! You spending time around Vegetarian Ventures is a sign in itself that we share the same passions; many of you were also around when I started my own magazine and now we are sharing this whole book thing together – I couldn’t imagine it any other way! I will, of course, be sharing more details as they roll out so check back for updates! Thanks for hanging around here and for the continued support – this dream wouldn’t have come true without followers like yourself!

Cherry Chocolate Granola BarsCherry Chocolate Granola Bars Cherry Chocolate Granola BarsCherry Chocolate Granola Bars

I probably should have made a cake to celebrate but it’s the beginning of January and all the New Years resolution health kicks are in full swing (mine included!) so I decided to take the practical route and prepare some granola bars for you instead. They are naturally sweetened with maple syrup and dates and drizzles of chocolate to give them just enough indulgence for you to look forward to enjoying them for an afternoon snack.

I'm Writing A Cookbook + Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars
These Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars are naturally sweetened and the perfect chewy afternoon snack.
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Author: Shelly Westerhausen
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup rice crispy cereal
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds + more for topping
  • 8 fresh dates , pitted
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon butter or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • 4 oz . dark chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a bread pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, almonds, cherries, rice crispies, and pumpkin seeds.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat dates, maple syrup, butter, vanilla extract, and peanut butter over medium heat for three to five minute, or until the dates has softened.
  4. Use an immersion blender to blend the warm mixture into a thick paste (alternatively, use a food processor to blend into a paste).
  5. Add paste to oats mixture and mix until all the dry ingredients are coated.
  6. Transfer the mixture to prepared baking sheet and press the mixture down firmly to help hold shape.
  7. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from heat and let cool completely before slicing into rectangles.
  8. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Drizzle chocolate over granola bars and let cool completely before slicing.
  9. If not serving right away, store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Cherry Chocolate Granola Bars





  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
    January 7, 2016

    Ahhhhhhh I can’t wait to see this gorgeous book of yours! Congratulations!! Seriously, I’ve always hoped in my heart of hearts that you’d come out with a book 🙂 Also, love these bars! The cherries and the chocolate in there sound awesome together.

    • Shellywest
      Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar
      January 8, 2016

      Thanks for the kinds words, Katrina, and for always following along! Love that you come around here so often!!

  • litterless blog
    January 7, 2016

    Shelly, this is HUGE! So many congrats. I’ve got so much love for fellow midwest creatives. XOXO, Celia

    • Shellywest
      litterless blog
      January 8, 2016

      !!! It’s going to have a Midwest twist to it so I’m so glad to have a fellow Midwesterner following along!!

  • Considering The Radish
    January 7, 2016

    Congratulations! If the book is anything like this blog it’s going to be a beauty.

    • Shellywest
      Considering The Radish
      January 8, 2016

      Awww – thanks for the kind words, Allyson! Hoping it’ll be my most beautiful accomplishment yet!

  • Mariela
    January 7, 2016

    Whoa! This is amazing news. Congrats, girl! Your hard work will pay off!! Looking forward to all the behind the scenes posts, oh, and these look super delicious. Congrats!!!

    • Shellywest
      January 8, 2016

      Yay – thanks for the encouraging words, Mariela! Excited to share all the behind the scenes glimpses!

  • Chaucee
    January 7, 2016

    Congrats on the cookbook! Can’t wait to read it : )

    • Shellywest
      January 8, 2016

      Thanks, Chaucee! I’m so nervous / beyond excited for you and everything to read it!

  • Erica
    January 7, 2016

    Congratulations! I’m a huge fan of your photography and your words on this site, I’m sure it will be just as beautiful in book form. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Shellywest
      January 8, 2016

      Thanks, Erica! I really appreciate you following along and your encouraging words!

  • Tieghan
    January 7, 2016

    Congrats!! I am currently working on my book with Clarkson Potter due out in Fall of 2017 so I totally am right in the same boat with you! I know your book is going to be AMAZING!! 🙂

    Love these healthy snack bars too!

    • Shellywest
      January 8, 2016

      I know – I am SO beyond pumped for your book! Let me know if you ever need to vent about the process as I’m sure I’m going through the same frustrations (and excitements!!) 🙂

  • Emma {Emma's Little Kitchen}
    January 8, 2016

    Congrats on the cookbook! These look so delicious, and your photography is gorgeous 🙂

    • Shellywest
      Emma {Emma’s Little Kitchen}
      January 8, 2016

      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, Emma!! <3

  • Katie
    January 8, 2016

    I’ve never commented before, but as a fellow Midwestern vegetarian I’m super excited to hear this news! Can’t wait to see/hold a tangible extension of this blog. I grew up in Indiana and live in Michigan now and I love to see those familiar places being celebrated in this space – especially alongside beautiful food + photography.

  • Natalia
    January 8, 2016

    Wow, congratulations! Far or not, we will patiently wait for your book! It sounds like one of the best photography food related book! <3

  • Letty / Letty's Kitchen
    January 8, 2016

    Yes, congrats on getting that manuscript ready and the cookbook contract. I want to make these bar cookies asap. Where does the chocolate come in?

    • Shellywest
      Letty / Letty’s Kitchen
      January 11, 2016

      Thanks, Letty! I’ve now added notes on the chocolate – was so excited to post that I skipped over the last step! Enjoy!

  • Sherrie
    January 8, 2016

    From one Midwestern vegetarian sister to another {wait, what I’m a Midwesterner??} I can’t wait to hold this beauty in my hands. I am really craving these granola bars, I second Letty’s {^} comment – chocolate please? xx

    • Shellywest
      January 11, 2016

      Umm you are totally a Midwestern now (whether you like it or not ;p)! Thanks for all the support through all of this, Sherrie! <3

  • Hannah | The Swirling Spoon
    January 8, 2016

    Congratulations, Shelly! x

    • Shellywest
      Hannah | The Swirling Spoon
      January 11, 2016

      Thanks, Hannah!

  • Jessie Snyder | Faring Well
    January 10, 2016

    Shelly! I seriously am astounded at your secrecy skills! I’m the worst and have no idea how you didn’t splurge at least a hundred times. This is so crazy exciting!! Ah!! So so proud of you and excited for you and cannot gosh darn wait to get my hands on this soon to be gorgeous book of yours 🙂 all the xxxx and oooo.

    • Shellywest
      Jessie Snyder | Faring Well
      January 11, 2016

      Yay – thanks, Jessie! It’s was sooo hard to keep my mouth shut (Okay, I may have spilled to at least a dozen people when I saw them in person) but it feels so good to actually open up and talk about it! So glad to hear you are excited!

  • Katie @ 24 Carrot Life
    January 10, 2016

    Oh my gosh CONGRATULATIONS! This is huge news! I cannot wait to see the finished product- you better believe I’ll be pre-ordering that baby- and I am sure it is going to be filled with beautiful pictures and delicious recipes…like these granola bars. Dried cherries are my fav! xoxo

  • Molly
    January 11, 2016

    Hell yeah! That’s awesome, congrats!!

  • genevieve y
    January 12, 2016

    Congratulations, this is so exciting! What a way to kick off 2016!

  • Veronica
    January 12, 2016

    Do you know the nutritional value?

  • Erika
    January 13, 2016

    Congrats Girlfriend!! How exciting!

  • Grace
    January 18, 2016

    I’m a little late to the party here but I’m still your number one fan!! I dream about your cookbook and can’t wait to hold it (not being creepy, just fangirling!!). Seriously, can’t wait.

  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen
    January 21, 2016

    This is such a big deal, Shelly!
    Again, huge congrats. I can’t wait to see your gorgeous work on paper, in my kitchen. xx

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  • Becca | Spices and Spatulas
    January 24, 2016

    Cannot WAIT for your book! I know it’ll be just amazing, and one of my go-to recipe spots, just like your blog! Xo

    • Shellywest
      Becca | Spices and Spatulas
      January 26, 2016

      Awww – I appreciate the positive vibes, Becca!!! <3

  • Traci
    January 31, 2016

    What fantastic news Shelly! Congratulations on turning in your manuscript and completing that milestone! I’m looking forward to Spring of 2017….. yes, a ways off but looking forward to it anyway! So exciting. These granola bars are sublime, my dear! So much goodness going on… a perfect pick me up for those snackish afternoons!

  • Danica
    March 16, 2016

    I love making granola bars and these are no exception. It is the perfect combination of ingredients to make a truly delicious and satisfying treat!

    I recently ordered this chai spice blend off of etsy and included 1 tsp of it in the recipe and it put it over the top.

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