Have you spent enough already on snack / granola/ energy / breakfast bars? One – the $$ add up pretty quickly; two – have you turned to the ingredients list? Yes – they may be low in sugar & carbs, high in protein & fiber, and claim to be a good meal replacement. But most of them are chock full of additives & have dozens of ingredients that I would never put in my mouth if I saw it by itself. In my attempt to feed my family food that is tasty, nutritious, natural and most importantly, can be made ahead, I have been experimenting with a few different recipes.
I found that over the last few months, the alternative to my 4pm sweet tooth / chocolate craving was only satiated by the texture and sweetness of dates and the crunch of a few walnuts or almonds. If that was not enough, I would eat an apple or a banana to tide me through till dinner. Some days, I needed a ‘portable’ breakfast & cereal bars seemed like a good thing to start the day with.
These bars are husband & kid approved, and I generally don’t flinch when my boys go back for a second piece. The recipe below is more of a guide – feel free to swap out ingredients for what you have on hand and adjust sweetness to your preference.
No-Cook Oats & Dates Breakfast Bars
(Makes 16 – 2X2 inch squares)
- 2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc)
- 2 cups oats ( I used rolled / old-fashioned oats; can probably try Instant / quick cook variety)
- 1 cup dates
- 1 cup dry figs (soak in 1/2 cup warm water for about 15 mins and drain well before using)
- 1/4 cup chia seeds (optional)
- 2-3 tsp cinnamon OR cardamom powder
- few Tbsp honey OR maple syrup OR agave syrup (optional)
- 1-2 cups applesauce OR finely chopped apple OR banana
1) Heat a wide, heavy bottomed pan on medium-high flame and add the oats. Toast them for about 5-10 mins till they are nutty, stirring constantly and making sure they do not brown. Remove to another wide container to cool.
2) In the same pan, add the nuts in a single layer and toast for a few minutes, again stirring continuously and making sure they do not burn. Toast till they are fragrant and glossy with their own oil. Remove from hot pan to cool completely. Work in batches if necessary.
3) In a large food processor, add the oats, the nuts and the dates & figs separately. Process till coarsely (your preference) chopped, removing to another container as each one is done.
4) Add the cinnamon/cardamom powder and fruit and mix well. – If using applesauce, use only 1/2 – 1 cup to bind mixture, and add on as needed.
5) Alternately, add all the coarsely chopped ingredients and powder back to the food processor and pulse till it all comes together. (This is my preferred method as we don’t like chunks in our bars.) Drizzle in some honey/syrup if needed as everything is getting mixed.
6) Line an 8X8 inch pan with wax paper or foil, making sure it overhangs over the sides.
7) Press the mixture into the pan, and smooth out the top evenly.
8) At this point, the bars are ready to eat. I prefer to let the raw mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator to set and allow the flavors to meld.
9) When the mixture is set, remove the bars by holding the foil. Slice into 2X2 inch squares and store in an airtight container. They will be fine for a week or more in the fridge.
10) Alternately, once you press the mixture into the pan, cook in a preheated 350* oven for 20 minutes and allow to cool completely. Remove with foil, slice and store in an airtight container.
NOTE: As mentioned above, add or reduce the quantity of the dates, fruits and syrup to suit your tastes. You can also experiment with different types of nuts, although I find that walnuts have the best texture here.