An easy recipe for 5-ingredient energy bars featuring cardamom and cranberries that are nut-free and gluten-free.
The travel season is upon us. Today and tomorrow will be filled with families piling into their cars and on planes lugging suitcases and scarves behind them, arms full of casseroles and freshly baked pies. From there will come the mall shopping, elbows in your sides, standing in line with piles of to-be presents, Christmas music twinkling in the background so you might remember the reason for the season. There will be requisite holiday parties for friends and work, road trips to see relatives, and family vacations to sunny beaches or frigid ski hills. In the midst of all of this, you still need to eat.
Drive-thrus, truck stops, and airports are not always the most reliable sources of nutrition, and so it’s always best to have a backup plan. One worth eating.
I’m big on that “worth eating” bit. I learned long ago that there are plenty of food that will get the job done that is not worth eating, whether it’s cardboard and chemicals repurposed as “edible” or because it has a price tag that will have you emptying your wallet to pay for it.
So, while you’re running from here to there this season, instead toss one of these in your pocket or purse, and be ready when those hunger pains surface. There’s not much worse than being hangry in the midst of all the seasonal excitation.
This past weekend I took my own advice when I traveled to Virginia for Mixed, a conference for food bloggers by food bloggers, on behalf of Attune Foods as their representative. Part of my responsibilities included making these energy bars to hand out during the Attune-sponsored breakfast Saturday morning, as well as let people know a little bit more about Attune and their product line-up.
Mixed is held at the picturesque Mountain Lake Lodge, located on Salt Pond Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountain range of the Appalachians, the resort where Dirty Dancing was filmed. The urge to say, “nobody puts Baby in the corner” proved irresistible for many, and there was, of course, a Dirty Dancing viewing to be had late Saturday night after the Americana band The Band Concord had exited the stage. Small and intimate, Mixed was a wonderful experience in a gorgeous setting with great sponsors, knowledgeable speakers, and the best roommate. Shari was such a dear, and not just because she let me steal photos from the conference from her, but because she has the biggest heart. I wish I could spend every night talking about personality types and life goals.
My conference version of these bars didn’t include the cranberries. They are delicious on their own, tasting a bit like a fig bar according to Shari and are similar in texture to a CLIF Bar or LÄRABAR. However, as I was mixing them up for the fourth time in four days in my kitchen, I decided to add a few dried cranberries to the party and the result was equally enticing, the tart chewy berries providing a pleasing contrast to the nutty, earthiness of the pepitas and the super sweet dates. If cranberries are your thing, definitely give them a go.
I used the Quinoa & Chia Flakes (gluten-free, protein packed, Non-GMO, and organic) for these, but they’re easily replicated with other cereals as well, all flakes and even the crisped rice can be used to recreate them. Stored in an airtight container, these can be kept for up to a week or more, making them a great choice for snack foods, long car rides, traveling, and school lunches by the dozen. The building blocks – nuts/seeds + dates + cereal – can be mixed together easily, a blank canvas for adding extracts, dried fruits, chocolate, and more. Get creative and mix up your own variations.
1 cup pitted dates (Medjool are nice)
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 cups Erewhon Organic Quinoa & Chia cereal or other flaked cereal
1/3 cup dried cranberries, optional
Add the pepitas and dates to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until they are minced evenly. Add in the cardamom and 1 1/2 cups of the cereal and pulse until mixed thoroughly. Add in the remaining cereal.
Turn the food processor to the on position so that it is continuously mixing, and through the feed tube slowly pour in the first 2 tablespoons of water. The ingredients should come together into a soft mass. Add an additional tablespoon of water if they need a bit more moisture. This will depend on humidity and the type of dates used.
Once you have a soft but not wet consistency, add the cranberries, sprinkling over the top of the mixture. Pulse once to incorporate them.
Line an 8″ square baking pan with parchment. Press the energy bar mixture into the pan, using another piece of parchment over the top to help, if necessary. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container until read to eat.
Makes 12-16 bars.