It was always a treat to open up my brown bag lunch at school and find a granola bar waiting there for me. Being the good little lunch eater that I was, I would anxiously eat my sandwich and apple first so that I could savor my cherished granola bar. Once I started reading nutrition labels as an adult, I realized that a lot of the granola bars I had deemed healthy when I was younger, are actually not all that great from a nutrition standpoint. Ergo, a transition from yummy sugary granola bar to yummy healthy energy bar arose. This recipe includes almonds, walnuts, peanut butter, dates and apricots.
Carlo’s nephew-in-law works for a cherry and walnut grower in California; he and Carlo’s niece visited over President’s Day weekend for a ski trip and they were kind enough to bring my mom and Carlo a whole 25-lb box of walnuts. What wonderful guests! I eagerly accepted a portion of the walnuts and knew that energy bars were in my future. There is nothing better than getting whole foods straight from a farm – it just tickles me. You can expect to see walnuts on many of my upcoming ingredient lists!
It goes without saying that my recipe for these nutty, fruity energy bars are not low-calorie. They are, however, high in good fats, antioxidants, protein and vitamins. When I did research on walnuts, I was stunned to find how good they are for you. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a nutritionist, so I consult this websitefrequently to learn about the health benefits of certain foods.
Walnuts are great for the cardiovascular system, are high in antioxidants, contain a rare form of Vitamin E and much much more. Dates, while very high on the glycemic index, are my preference over refined sugar, though they can be substituted for an alternate fruit ingredient if you do not like the flavor/texture/glycemic level of them. (Side note: these are not “paleo” because they contain peanut butter. To make paleo, use almond butter in place of peanut butter).
These energy bars are easy to take with you on a hiking trip if they aren’t consumed before putting them in zip-lock baggies. I have been enjoying them with a hot mug of tea as a snack and find them absolutely delicious. These are sugar-free energy bars other than the natural fructose in apricots and dates. Adding honey or agave will sweeten them up (though I don’t think it’s necessary to make them sweeter) and will also help the ingredients bind together.
- 1 cup almonds
- 2 cups walnuts
- ¼ cup unsalted, unsweetened peanut butter or almond butter
- 1 cup dried apricots
- 6 dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- Honey is optional (I opted out, but add about ¼ cup if desired)
Preheat your oven to 375. Prepare a small (9 x 9) baking dish with parchment paper.
Using a tea kettle or a pot, bring water to a boil and fill a mug half-full with hot water. Place all of the fruit (apricots and dates) in the mug and let sit for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Using tongs (or a strainer) remove fruit from the boiling water and allow the fruit to sit and cool.
Place half of the almonds and half of the walnuts in a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have a grainy nut meal. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts. Add the nut meal and chopped nuts to a mixing bowl.
Finely chop the fruit (pit the dates) and add to the mixing bowl. Pour the melted coconut oil (or olive oil) and vanilla extract over the nuts and fruit. Sprinkle the salt and cinnamon over the nuts and fruit.
Add the peanut butter and mix everything thoroughly until all ingredients are coated in peanut butter. The mixture should be somewhat sticky – if it is not, add more peanut butter (or honey if desired).
Pour the mixture into your parchment-lined baking dish. Using your fingers, press the mixture into the dish until evenly dispersed.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, use the parchment paper as leverage to carefully pull out of the baking dish. Allow bars to cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.