Remember when granola bars used to be a healthy snack? There was a time when they didn’t have marshmallows and caramel fudge in them, they weren’t all dipped in chocolate and their number one ingredient was not high fructose corn syrup. There is a reason why hippies are nicknamed ‘granolas’. Or that being earthy makes you a little crunchy (like granola). Yet, I would venture to say that granola bought from the store stands as one of the sugariest cereals on the shelf today. I like the stuff. Of course I do. I like eating cookie batter too before the eggs, flour and milk is added and it is just sugar and butter creamed together. But it is what it is.
When I was eating for two, I found it very difficult to find enough calories in a day to keep my blood sugar at a reasonable level. Being a fluttering type I burn a lot of calories in a day and the extra demand of pregnancy and breast-feeding found me constantly reaching for whatever was easy, handy and ready to eat. It took a while to realize how many individually wrapped ‘healthy’ granola bars I was consuming. And a longer while to read the labels on these things. They are not healthy.
So an alternative was born. I learned of a recipe of dates and seeds, nuts and raisins mixed with corn syrup that knocked my socks off. In an attempt to push a little further towards using natural, healthy ingredients, I attempted the same recipe with only dates and peanut butter to hold it all together. And guess what? It worked!
I am sorry to say that I forgot to bring these little gems up hiking with me last week but I have made a batch to keep handy for the days ahead as we seem to all be getting caught up in the jobs of spring and I for one, am forgetting to eat. It is never great to open the fridge in a foggy hunger haze at 2pm hoping that a grilled chicken salad will leap out at you. Instead I start to eat cream cheese carved right off the block and peanut butter out of the jar. I’m looking for high calories quickly so I can get back to my tasks. Now I have these:
Dried Fruit and Nut Energy Bars
1. Take a dry package of dates (2 cups?) and soak them a few hours in less than ¼ cup of hot water (just enough to cover the dates). Attempt to stir them as often as possible to get the water soaking through. I do this in a glass measuring cup so that I can use the microwave at the end if needed to get to a soft but firm date paste. This paste should be more firm than what you find in a date square.
2. Now I mix in a few tablespoons of peanut butter – hazelnut or cashew butter works divinely as well. This should be done when it is warm and although I don’t rely on a microwave, this appliance is handy here.
3. Once you’ve got your base, transfer it to a large stainless steel or glass bowl (plastic would be a stinker to get clean after).
4. Add anything and everything dried or nutty that your heart desires. I choose sesame seeds, poppy seeds, almonds, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, sometimes even chocolate chips if I’m feeling naughty. Crispy cereals can be fun in there too but now we’re getting back into processed sugary business again. Your choice. I do both.
5. Blend the mixture together somehow. This can be done with a spoon, a fork or your hands. Whatever gets it all mixed together evenly. It shouldn’t be too runny but if you need to soften it to get it mixed, add a touch of water or honey.
6. Press the mixture into a rectangular dish. I prefer glass because it is the easiest to get the bars out. It doesn’t need to be greased. I suppose you could do them up in little bite-sized balls too if you were feeling energetic. Otherwise a tray of squares works great.
7. Store in fridge or freezer until ready to eat. This snack does not keep well in the heat. For travel you may want to wrap individually in saran wrap or wax paper and then take out of the freezer before you leave. They can be gooey when warm but hold firm when cool.
That’s all for today.
Happy Spring everyone!