For as long as I can remember, as in like my whole life, granola bars have been a go-to snack. They were a mainstay in my lunchbox when I was a kid. There was always a box in my bottom drawer when I got my first job. Granola bars were a weekly staple when I got my first apartment and started doing my own grocery shopping. When Jeff and I moved in together we’d each get to select a box of our own granola bars for the week.
Granola bars are a perfect snack… In theory. Fibre, good fats, protein — but in reality most of today’s packaged granola bars are glorified candy loaded with sugar, artificial flavours, preservatives and other junk, all wrapped up in a “chocoately coating.” What is this “chocolately” that is coating these granola bars anyway?
Needless to say conventional grocery store granola bars are no longer a pantry staple in the house. Full disclosure, we do keep a box of Uberbars and Larabars in our pantry. With minimal ingredients and without most of the yuck that a Quaker bar might have, I feel okay keeping them around for emergencies. They come in handy when I need a boost before an early morning workout or after a client meeting that ran late and left me without lunch. But even still they are not the best snack and we certainly try not to indulge too often.
I had always wanted to try baking my own bars at home but the recipes I’d come across in the past often called for ridiculous amounts of honey, maple syrup or nut butter — sometimes as much as a cup each! — making them cost prohibitive. A cup of good quality honey could cost upwards of $10, making those grocery store bars look ever more attractive. So when I spotted a recipe for breakfast bars in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that called for a mere quarter cup of olive oil, honey and almond butter, respectively, I knew my time had come!
I had everything in my cupboard to whip these bars up on a Friday night and they took barely any time at all. Key learnings for next time: no really, wait until the bars are completely cool, if not cold, to try and cut them. Even at warmish they were crumbly and difficult to slice. And I’m definitely going to try throwing in a handful of cacao nibs.
Jeff and I both enjoyed these bars to fuel our workouts or simply for breakfast. One more I crumbled a bar over a bowl of fresh local peach slices, blackberries and a sheep’s yogurt — a winning combination and a power breakfast to boot. Needless to say with a batch of these in the freezer we haven’t been reaching for those Larabars, and I’m more than happy with that.
Almond Date Granola Bars
Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 8 large or 16 small bars
1 cup medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 1/4 rolled oats
3 Tbsps whole spelt flour
1/3 cup ground flax
1/2 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extra
Preheat your oven to 350. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to go up the sides. Drape a second piece in the opposite direction so you can easily life the bars once they are cool.
In a large bowl, stir together dates, oats, spelt flour, flax, almonds, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk almond butter, oil, honey and vanilla until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until everything is coated well and evenly. Spread the mixture in to the pan and press firmly into the edges.
Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are brown around the edges. Remove and let them cool completely. No seriously, let them cool! Maybe even put them in the fridge. Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut into squares.