February 7, 2013

Homemade Energy Bars

Dates, chia seeds, oats, coconut, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. Yum.
Homemade energy bars (let's be honest, we're talking about Larabars here) combine a number of healthy ingredients to create an awesome feel-good treat. Some people shape theirs into spherical nutritionally-packed bites, but I prefer the classically shaped bar. Everyone's made these, and it's no wonder: they are unbelievably simple (if you have a food processor), infinitely changeable, and delightfully tasty in any iteration.

Why are they so good for you? Dried medjool dates are little superfruits, packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Of course, they have a higher sugar content when dried, but that's the only sweetener in this recipe. The other ingredients come with their own lengthy healthy resume: oats are high in dietary fiber and are a source of heart-healthy whole grains; unsweetened coconut offers a healthy fat; chia seeds are well-known for their super concentration of omega-3s and calcium; cocoa powder is an antioxidant; and even cinnamon has long been revered in Ayurvedic practice.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of recipes for these all over the internet. I loved this version, but feel free to experiment with your favorite ingredients. Add pecans or almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins or dried cranberries, skip the cocoa powder, forget the coconut. All you need to keep an eye on is the texture. Too dry, and they won't come together; too wet, and they'll be difficult to eat.

Go forth and make these little energy bites, bars, balls, or what have you. They'll do the trick to tide you over, and they're so much better for you than a candy bar! And please share your favorite rendition in the comments.

Homemade Energy Bars
1 cup organic rolled oats (I used old-fashioned, but quick-cook oats would work too)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups dried medjool dates
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor. Pulse to combine until the mixture is uniform in size (think sand-like consistency). With the food processor running, slowly pour in the water. The dough will start to pull away from the sides of the food processor.

Check the consistency at this point: open up the food processor and touch the dough. It should stick to itself without crumbling, and not stick to your finger. Add more water as needed. If you've added too much water, throw in another tablespoon or so of oats and process until it's just right.

Line an 8x8 dish with parchment or wax paper, and press the dough into the pan. The bars should be about 1/4 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, slice into bars and keep chilled. Alternately, shape into bite-sized truffles and refrigerate.

This recipe makes about 8 four-inch bars.