Packed with healthy fats and whole grains, these endlessly adaptable energy bars make a filling grab and go snack or light breakfast! Sweetened with just a hint of maple syrup.
I wonder who created the first energy bar. I just googled it and fell into a black hole of Wikipedia articles. It was Howard Bauman, a food technologist with Pillsbury in the 1960s, Interestingly later went on to help develop HACCP, a safety procedure in the food industry. But first, he created Space Food Sticks, a snack bar that capitalized on the decades obsession with the space race. I'm not so sure what Space Sticks were made from but supposedly they contained "nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein"...whatever that means. Space Food Sticks came in six flavors including caramel, chocolate and peanut butter and if you're really curious, even though they came off supermarket shelves in the 80s, you can now order them online.
Howard Bouman sounds like he was a pioneer in the food industry...but secretly, I would like to take a time machine to the 60s and give 'ole Howie a swift kick in the kneecap. As well intentioned as I'm sure he was, his invention would lead the way to some of the most disgusting and least nutritious dietetic junk food.
It wouldn't be so bad if energy bars were marketed as what they actually are, but something tells me sales wouldn't exactly be through the roof for a product marketed as "packed with additives, fake protein, added sugar and won't even keep you full for an hour!"
When have you ever felt truly satiated or nourished from an energy bar? Back when I was in college, I lived off cookie dough flavored Slim Fast bars for breakfast. At the time, I thought of it as a 'healthy' way to have cookie dough for breakfast. My diet food-philic taste buds actually believed they tasted like real cookie dough. They do not. If only I paid attention to how they made my body feel...and how hungry I was before my second class!
I get the convenience of energy bars, I really do. There are even a few brands made with real food that I eat semi-regularly as a filling snack or even as a grab and go meal, paired with a hard boiled egg, plain yogurt, fresh fruit or green juice. Because I know you'll ask, I like Lara Bars, the KIND bars with 5 grams of sugar (it says on the front), and Health Warrior Chia Bars.
Mostly, I make my own. It's cheaper, you have control over the ingredients, and it tastes a whole lot better. And you know what? Homemade bars are actually filling! Like, I could eat one of these for breakfast and okay, I would be hungry for a snack by 10 am, but I'm always hungry for a snack then.
As with most of my cooking, I take a 'throw in a bunch of crap I have laying around and hope it comes out' approach. This recipe is endlessly adaptable based on whatever staples you have on hand. It's a great way to use up extra grains, dried fruit and nuts you have on hand.
Endlessly Adaptable Energy Bars
For the pictured recipe, I used quinoa, a mixture of sunflower seeds, walnuts and pecans, honey, and dried plums.
- 2 cups rolled oats, old fashioned oats or quick cook steel cut oats (the latter will yield a crunchier, but slightly harder to cut bar)
- 1 cup quinoa, millet, oats, teff or amaranth
- 1 cup chopped nuts of choice, or a mixture
- 1/2 cup chopped unsweetened dried fruit
- 1/3 cup honey or pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup nut butter of choice
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, olive oil, peanut oil or avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place oats, grains, and nuts in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook, stirring every so often, until they smell toasty. Remove from heat and carefully pour into a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, combine honey/syrup, nut butter, oil, vanilla extract and salt in a small pot on medium heat. Cook, stirring to whisk, until melted and well combined. Pour over the oat mixture and stir to combine.
- Line a rectangle baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper so that some is coming out from the edges. This makes it easier to remove the bars after cooking. Pour the oat mixture in to the baking dish and press down to even out the top. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until browned around the edges. Remove and set aside to cool.
- Once at room temperature, place it in the fridge to chill, which makes it easier to cut. Once cold, cut into bars and store in the fridge until ready to eat.
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