I’m always on the look out for a delicious, healthy snack for my kids. I resent anything to do with store bought goldfish crackers or cookies (although yes, I do buy them when desperate). Think store bought granola bars are “healthy”? Think again. They are loaded with fat and sugars. Growing up in England, I was raised on delicious flapjacks which are wonderful but also full of butter, molasses and sugar. At last, I found a healthy bar in the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook. This weekend I baked these delicious treats with my kids. We all had fun mushing and mashing them together and my kitchen smelled downright delicious. They love them and are in their lunch boxes today. No butter or sugar in sight!
Almond Date Breakfast Bars (courtesy of Smitten Kitchen)
Ingredients to fit 8×8 pan – double for a 9×13 pan
1 cup chopped dried pitted dates (you can also substitute with other dried fruit)
1 1/4 quick rolled oats
3 Tbsp barley or whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (or ginger or any spices you love)
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1/4 tsp almond extract
(Note: I also added the pulp leftover from 1 cup almonds that I used to make my own almond milk. I think it is a nice addition and a good use of this pulp)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-by-8-by-2-inch pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing the paper to go up the opposing sides. Do the same in the opposite direction. This parchment “sling” makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan in one piece.
Stir together the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, salt, and cinnamon in the bottom of a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond extract until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture, and stir them together until the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Get your hands messy and really mix everything in. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, pressing the mixture firmly onto the bottom, edges, and corners to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan.
Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are brown around the edges – don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost under baked when you press into the center of the pan, but do not worry – they’ll set once completely cool.
Cool the bars in their pan placed on a cooling rack or in the fridge.
Once they’re cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If bars seem crumbly, chill them further in the fridge for 30 minutes, which will fully set the “glue,” then cut them cold.