Friday, April 12, 2013

Good to Go

I don't know about you, but I am always on the lookout for handy, nutritious, on-the-go snacks. One of the things I learned when I went gluten free was that this type of quick bite nearly always includes bread of some sort. Those of you who can eat sandwiches, pizza, bagels, wraps, and burritos don't realize how easy things are for you. If I'd forgotten to plan well, I used to find myself crazy with hunger and desperate for an appropriate snack on days when I was out of the house all day. Then I discovered a certain nut and dried fruit bar that had it all. These bars are nutritious, tasty, convenient, widely available and they come in a variety of flavors. They don't have any scary ingredients and they will keep forever in backpack or in the glovebox. The only problem? At $1.25-1.75 apiece, they can add up, especially when I am feeding kids.
I'm not sure why it took me so long to try making my own. I think I was convinced my DIY version wouldn't measure up. As it turns out I hit a home run on my first try. After doing a little research I learned that others had had good luck making their own custom bars. It's a simple enough formula: if you put equal parts nuts, dates, and dried fruits in the food processor and let it run until your ingredients change from crumbs to paste to a big sticky ball you're good to go. You can press the mixture into a baking pan, chill, and cut bars to any size you like or, if you have some type of mold you can try that. I used a silicone mini loaf mold and my perfectly sized bars popped right out after spending the night in the 'fridge.
For these bars I used 1.5 cups of nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) which I roasted in the oven to bring out the nutty flavor but this step isn't strictly necessary. I tossed the roasted nuts in the food processor with 1.5 cups of pitted dates and 3/4 cup dried cranberries and 3/4 cup unsulfured dried apricots. I also added a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened shredded dried coconut and a couple of tablespoons of chia seeds. I purchased my ingredients in bulk and ended up with 10 good sized bars at approximately .60 cents apiece so a considerable savings over the original. The bars travel pretty well wrapped in waxed paper secured with a rubber band. I know I shouldn't have been surprised but these homemade bars, like so many things, taste fresher and just a bit more delicious than their store bought counterparts and I'm looking forward to experimenting with other flavor combinations.

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  1. Delicious-looking. Can they be made without nuts?

  2. Remove the nuts? could maybe replace them with unsweetened coconut. You'd lose a lot of nutrition that way and end up with a very sweet bar but it might work. Give it a try and let me know how it works out.

  3. I've made these of combinations. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are a good replacement for nuts. A teaspoon of ground coffee or ginger adds a little excitement too. I never thought of using molds .. . Just put them in a snack bag and molded them by hand, bag and all.

  4. Rosalyn: seeds are a great idea and I love the idea of coffee (with hazelnuts, dried cherries, and chocolate chips?) and ginger makes me think of a chai - inspired bar (almonds, pistachios, coconut, cardamom, and cinnamon?). So many possibilities!

    Another nut alternative might be whole oats if you can tolerate them. I think this would make the bars considerably more perishable but it could work.

  5. Whew! At first I thought these were little meatloaves. Great recipe!