Whether you've resolved to hit the gym more or your busy afternoons require a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, energy bars are full of ingredients that provide slow-burning fuel, such as dates and sunflower seeds, that will keep you going through a 12-mile run or that 3 p.m. slump. The problem? Commercial versions are overpackaged and full of sugar, and the tab for keeping my college-age runner supplied with brand-name individually wrapped energy bars would rival his tuition.
I actually found it pretty easy to re-create some of our favorite bars at home, using nothing more than a food processor. Tasty enough to challenge the likes of Clif and Larabars, these energy bar recipes can be whipped up in practically no time for a fraction of the price.
Raw Lemon-Coconut Bars
These tasty bars are similar to Lärabars, but contain no added sweetener and are gluten free.
Makes 12 bars
¾ cup plus 1 Tablespoon almond meal OR 1 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1½ cups pitted dates or 1¼ cups chopped dates or raisins
1 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut
Zest of 1 organic lemon
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
If using chopped dates, cover them with warm water, let them soak for about 5 minutes, and drain. If using sliced or slivered almonds, put them in your food processor and whir them into meal.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of almond meal evenly over the bottom of an 8-inch-square baking pan. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and whir until well mixed. Press into prepared pan. Chill for a couple of hours until firm, then cut into 12 squares, and wrap each in wax paper or store in an airtight container. These will keep at room temperature for a month…if you can resist them for that long.
Variations: Don't like lemon? You can substitute any nut, seed, or dried fruit in this recipe and change the seasonings to reproduce just about any bar out there. Here are a few tasty alternatives.
• Cherry Pie Bars: Substitute 1 cup of dried cherries or cranberries for the coconut.
• Apple Pie Bars: Substitute 1 cup of diced, dried apples for the coconut, omit the lemon zest and juice, and add 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon.
• Chocolate-Cashew Cookie Bars: Use 2 cups of cashews instead of the almonds and coconut, omit the lemon zest and juice, and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add ¼ cup of mini semisweet chocolate chips once everything else is well blended.
• PB & J Bars: Use peanuts (or shelled sunflower seeds) instead of almonds, substitute 1 cup of dried cherries or cranberries for the coconut, and omit the lemon zest and juice.