Almond and Date Breakfast Bars

by isabelcanosa

Breakfast bars

My life used to (and often still does) consist of stages of eating badly, followed by guilt, followed by dieting.  The minute I deny myself something I become a brat because the concept of never eating chocolate/donuts/bread again depressed me. Not a good look. My sister (who lives in LA and as a result is a fountain of diet knowledge) mentioned the idea of ‘binge day’ or ‘cheat day’; in other words; eating healthily on all but one day of the week. This was a revelation, as now whenever I get a craving I can tell myself ‘just wait until Sunday’ and I don’t turn into a grump.

Most of the recipes that will appear on this blog will be my ‘Binge day’ recipes as I rarely get excited over something that’s good for me.  But here we have a healthy recipe (very out of character) as these are just too dam special to be ignored. I have been trying to find a breakfast that satisfied the urge for something crunchy and carby that I always have first thing, without the buckets of sugar. I was bored of porridge with its various toppings, I can never just have one bowl of cereal, and all pre-packaged breakfast bars are so full of sugar my teeth ache just looking at them. So I was intrigued when I came across this recipe for these breakfast bars in Smitten Kitchen’s new cookbook. The sweetness of these bars comes from honey, they are full of fibre and protein and as a result you get a slow release of energy rather than the peak and drop of sugary cereals, but most importantly they satisfy my crunch need.  I can say, hands down, they taste better than shop bought version.

These bars are extremely easy to make; just add all the ingredients together, bake, cool and cut, so it’s a super quick thing to make on a Sunday for the rest of the week. This recipe makes twelve bars; one for both me and The Dishwasher for each weekday minus our Sunday cheat day. You can double the recipe and freeze any extras or cut the bars smaller, the choice is yours. The dried fruit component in these is dates, but you could substitute that for any other dried fruit, such as apricots, if you’re not a fan. The original recipe called for wheat germ but I substituted this for chia seeds (a new wonder seed full of Omega-3 and Omega-6) which I bought from Whole Foods. If you can’t find them, substitute back to wheat germ.

Makes 12 bars
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150g chopped dried pitted dates
110g quick rolled oats
20g of whole wheat flour
35g chia seeds
55g sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
65g almond butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
85g honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Take a 23x33cm (13×9 inch) baking pan, or the equivalent, with sides and line with two pieces of greaseproof paper crossed over each over to create a sling (this will make the bars easy to lift out later).

In a large bowl add the oats, flour, chia seeds, almonds, dates, cinnamon and salt and stir to incorporate. In a separate bowl whisk together the orange zest, almond butter, honey, olive oil, and almond extract until smooth.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until well incorporated.  Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and press it firmly into the sides and base.

Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes on the middle shelf until they are brown around the edges.  Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes and then use the parchment sling to remove and place on a wire rack. Once completely cooled cut into to your desired number of squares/bars. I did twelve. If the mixture is a bit too crumbly, place it in the fridge for 30 minutes and slice from there. Enjoy with your morning coffee