These indulgent bars star popped amaranth, an ancient grain, paired with crunchy cashews, toasted oats and tart cranberries. Flaked coconut, cinnamon and vanilla balances the rich dark chocolate topping and sweet dulce de leche drizzle.
Place 1 cup of the chocolate chips in resealable plastic bag or airtight container in the freezer until ready to use.
Mix maple syrup and honey in medium saucepan. Bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Add almond butter, 3 teaspoons of the cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of the vanilla; mix well. Set aside.
Heat large skillet on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the amaranth; cover and cook about 30 seconds or until most of the grains have popped. (The popped grains will look like slightly larger small white beads.) Immediately transfer to large bowl. Repeat with remaining amaranth. (Should have about 2 cups popped amaranth.) Add coconut, cranberries, cashews, toasted oats and sea salt to popped amaranth in bowl; mix well. Add almond butter mixture; stir to coat all ingredients. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Stir in frozen chocolate chips. Gently press amaranth mixture into bottom of foil-lined 13x9-inch baking pan, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Place pan in refrigerator to chill.
Meanwhile, bring cream just to boil in small saucepan. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and vanilla. Pour over remaining 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips in medium heatproof bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Pour chocolate sauce evenly over chilled amaranth dessert. Refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or until chocolate is set.
Use foil handles to remove chilled dessert from pan onto cutting board. Drizzle top of dessert with warm dulce de leche. Let stand until dulce de leche is set. Cut into bars.
Test Kitchen Tips:
• Amaranth is an ancient seed from South America, rich in protein, fiber and vitamins, with an earthy, nutty flavor and crunchy texture. It can be found in natural foods stores, the organic section of the supermarket or online specialty stores.
• Toasting oats enhances their flavor and gives them a nutty brown color and crispy texture. To toast oats, heat a small nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add oats; cook and stir 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Immediately pour out of hot pan to avoid over-toasting.