Some people are magnetically drawn to the savory-salty delight of a wide open potato chip bag, happily crunching away like squirrels that stockpile nuts for the winter months. For others, their weakness can be found directly in the tooth – the sweet tooth, that is – with today’s manufacturers rolling out a never ending array of seductive and seemingly not-too-sinful treats jam packed with ingredients that almost seem healthy. When Mylar-wrapped goodies boast such good-for-you terms as ‘natural’, ‘low fat’ and ‘part of a heart healthy diet’, it’s not entirely surprising that we gamely chomp down.
Here’s the reality check that none of us like to acknowledge, however. That seemingly harmless sugar indulgence that helps us take the edge off of a long day, if consistently incorporated into the diet, can make the pancreas revolt… and you know what that means… the ‘D’ word: Diabetes. Needless to say, insulin, needles and a restrictive dietary plan do not a happy camper make.
Once upon a time, sugar was kind of like the smiley faced cherry on top of an otherwise hum drum day, whereas now it’s pretty much guilty of messing us up because entirely too much of it is jam-packed into the processed treats that we eat. We’re gobbling up far more of it than we can even begin to fathom… from condiments and ready-made soups to deli meats and sliced, whole grain bread! Enter homemade energy bars. Think of them as nature’s second best option to straight-up fruit, offering the toothsome satisfaction of candy, cookies or other less angelic baked goods with minimal dietary guilt. Oh, how sweet it is… in moderation, of course.
BANANA ALMOND BUTTER GRANOLA BARS (Vegan-Friendly)
On your stovetop, heat the following ingredients until well combined, reserving for later use:
FRUIT — 2 ripe mashed bananas
NUTS — ½ cup of almond butter
Next, pour the following four ingredients in a food processor, chopping until coarse and well-blended:
NUTS — 1/2 cup almonds
Then, pour food processor contents into a large bowl, incorporating previously heated banana-almond butter mixture along with the following:
GRAIN — 1 cup rolled oats
SEEDS –1/4 cup mixed seeds
Finally, press the whole kit and caboodle into a prepared 9-inch square metal pan, baking it in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting into individual bars.
APRICOT ALMOND MAPLE ENERGY BARS
Pulse the following ingredients in a food processor until finely chopped and well-blended:
GRAIN — 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ, 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
FRUIT — 1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup pitted dried dates
NUTS/SEEDS –1/2 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup raw almonds
DAIRY — 2 large eggs, 1/2 cup powdered nonfat dry milk
SPICES — 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
SWEETENERS — 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Once the mixture achieves the consistency of coarse paste, spread it evenly in a prepared 9 by 13-inch pan and bake it in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes.
DRIED FRUIT & PEANUT BUTTER SQUARES
In a large mixing bowl, add the following ingredients until well-combined:
GRAIN — 3 cups puffed whole grain cereal (such as Kashi)
FRUIT — 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates, 1/4 cup chopped dried tart cherries, 1/4 cup raisins
NUTS — 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
In a heavy saucepan, heat these liquid-based ingredients on high, whisking for at least one minute until they thicken:
NUTS — 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
SWEETENERS — 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
Pour the hot liquid into your large bowl until all energy bar ingredients are well-blended.
Then, press everything into a prepared 9-inch square metal baking pan — the consistency will be similar to that of marshmallow rice crispy treats, so be prepared to use some elbow grease! Bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven until the bars become golden brown and then cool thoroughly before cutting.
RAW CHOCOLATE CASHEW ALMOND ENERGY BARS (Vegan-Friendly)
Pulse the following ingredients in a food processor until coarse but well-blended:
FRUIT — 2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
NUTS — cups raw cashews, ½ cups raw almonds
FLAVORINGS — 3/4 cup cocoa powder, dash of sea salt
Add ½ cup of unsweetened shredded coconut, 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract and 2 to 3 tablespoons of cold water to your food processor until the whole mixture comes together like a dry but moist dough. Then press it into a 11 ½ x 4 ½ inch prepared, aluminum foil lined pan with a rubber spatula, allowing it to chill in your refrigerator for several hours or overnight for best flavor and consistency.
CHICKPEA FLAX GRANOLA BARS (Vegan-Friendly)
Chickpeas, you say? You mean the cute little beigey-orange morsels that I put in my salad? Yes. Believe it or not, those nutty, protein rich nuggets of goodness offer a wonderful flavor nuance to these energy bars, so give ‘em a whirl and you’ll become a believer. This recipe involves several steps, but it’s well worth the time.
First, soak 1 heaping tablespoon of ground flax seeds in ¼ cup of warm water until the mixture thickens, setting aside for later use.
Then, stir 1 teaspoon of cinnamon into 1 tablespoon of brown sugar in a bowl, adding 2 ¼ cups of cooked, rinsed chickpeas until well combined. Bake all three ingredients in a prepared 8 inch pan for 8 minutes, stirring well, and then for an additional 8 minutes. Mash thoroughly with a fork and reserve for later use.
Remember that flax mixture that you set aside? Add ½ cup of your favorite nut butter to it as well as ¼ cup of agave nectar and 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil.
Now, you might want to dust off your stand mixer or food processor because you’ll be adding your flax-nut butter-agave-coconut oil mixture to it along with your mashed chick peas and:
GRAIN — 1 ½ cups of quick oats, 1 cup puffed cereal such as kamut
FRUIT — 1/2 cup dried chopped apricots, 2 pitted/chopped dates, 1/4 cup raisins
FLAVORINGS — 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a pinch of salt if desired
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything is thoroughly mixed together, pressing firmly into an 8 inch wax or parchment paper-lined pan and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours before slicing and serving.
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