I'm no paragon of health and fitness, but even still I have a few coworkers who like to give me crap about my healthy diet. Although it wasn't always the case, I have no problem passing up the many mass-produced "treats" that show up at my workplace on a regular basis. There is a time I would have just mindlessly chowed down, but now I actually far prefer foods like this snack bar, which satisfies my sweet tooth (and chocolate tooth!) but is still packed with whole grains, nuts, and seeds. I love the deep chocolate flavor with only a mild sweetness, allowing the nuances of the chocolate flavor to shine without being buried in saccharinity. Given my propensity for making granola and granola bars I always have lots of nuts and seeds in my pantry, but feel free to swap in whatever you'd like for what I have listed here. These bars are dense bites of energy, and although I used them to fuel my all-too-stationary laboratory workday, they would be perfect to take along on a hike, bike ride, or canoe trip. To form perfect squares I used my individual brownie pan, but I've included the original directions for shaping and cutting the bars since it's an uncommon piece of bakeware. One batch makes enough work snacks for two weeks and the extras hold up splendidly in the freezer. With spring fully in swing and dreams of spending the days outside a reality, a few minutes in the kitchen aren't too much to ask to fuel up for the day.
adapted from CHOW
makes 10 bars
Oil, for coating the pan
1 1/2 cups crispy brown rice cereal
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw wheat germ
2 tablespoons whole sesame or chia seeds
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
1 cup dried Medjool dates (about 6 ounces), pitted
1/4 cup natural smooth unsalted peanut or almond butter
1/4 cup honey or brown rice syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup high quality natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.
2. Place rice cereal, almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, sesame or chia seeds, and flax seed meal on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with your hands to combine, and spread in an even layer. Bake, stirring halfway through, until almonds are fragrant and lightly toasted, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
3. Place cereal mixture in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until the mixture is broken up and the largest pieces are about the size of uncooked grains of rice, about 5 (1-second) pulses. Transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.
4. Place dates in the food processor and process until finely chopped and a ball forms, about 15 seconds; set aside.
5. Place peanut butter, honey rice syrup, salt, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until mixture is combined and runs like slow-moving lava, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, immediately add reserved dates and cocoa powder, and, using a wooden spoon, stir, smashing down on the dates, until well combined and no streaks of cocoa remain. Add reserved cereal mixture and stir, pressing as you do, until evenly combined. (This takes some muscle and time, about 5 minutes.) Transfer to the prepared baking pan and, using your hands, spread and firmly press the mixture into the pan. Let cool completely.
6. Remove the date-seed slab from the pan. Cut it in half to form two rectangles, then cut each rectangle widthwise into 5 bars to form 10 bars total. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 weeks; let frozen bars come to room temperature before eating.