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Recipe #244: Homemade Apricot-Nut Energy Bars

Posted Feb 26 2011 3:35pm
I decided to do some baking this afternoon, & so, created this original recipe for homemade apricot-nut energy bars. As you can probably tell from the number of baked goods recipes on this blog, weekend baking, or any baking at all for that matter, doesn't happen very often in our household. :) I cook more than I bake. Probably healthier that way too. :)

However, when I do bake, I'll usually make healthy treats, but only ones that I know are going to be super yummy. :) In other words, I'm not going to create a recipe just for the sake of its nutritional value if it's not going to taste good. Of course, we all know what  happened the last time I tried to do that. Ah yes, the infamous " scones experiment . It wasn't pretty. LOL. I even made a second attempt , but to no avail. You see, I've never made scones before, nor did I grow up eating lots of sweets or baking that much, if that isn't already patently obvious. ;) You'll also notice that that said elusive scones recipe has never actually made it to print here. ;) (Poor Steve & Andy ; they're still waiting for that recipe, not that they're holding their breath by this point. ;) Might be waiting a rather long time I'm afraid until I can figure out a way to make it healthier!)

Thankfully, my baking skills have improved considerably since then. Several months ago, I made a cranberry-apricot banana bread & I'm happy to say that it turned out remarkably well. Banana bread is one of the few things I've actually baked on a repeat basis throughout the years. On previous attempts, the flavor of the banana bread had been decent but I could never seem to achieve the desired consistency I'd been so patiently searching for all those years. :) The the cool thing is that, as I was creating the  cranberry-apricot banana bread  recipe a few months ago, I had a "light bulb" moment. I finally figured out how to make a light & airy banana bread, instead of the dense rocks I used to create. ;) I also started to read more about the chemistry of baking, & that, of course, helped greatly as well.

That being said, you'll be pleased to know that the below recipe doesn't require a PhD in chemistry. ;) It doesn't need to rise, so unless you burn it beyond recognition, it's going to be really hard to screw it up. :) In fact, this recipe is SO easy to make that you can just toss all of the ingredients into a food processor, save the apricots & pumpkin seeds, mix everything together & spread it out onto a baking sheet, bake it, & there you go. Yes, it's really that simple.

The nice thing about making your own energy bars at home is that you can control what goes into it & keep it healthy. ;) These bars are great snacks for hiking or fueling for long runs. They're nutritious & fiber-rich, and will help power you through your workouts. :-D

This recipe is dedicated to my runner pals, StuTracey , & Thad , since they provided the inspiration for this recipe. Enjoy!


Homemade Apricot-Nut Energy Bars

Ingredients:
1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil (for coating the baking tray)
2 c. oats
1 c. ground flaxseed
1 c. blanched unsalted almonds, slivered
1 c. dry-roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut, shredded (can find online or at international supermarkets)
1/2 c. dry nonfat milk powder
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground aniseed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. orange juice (or pineapple juice)
4 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. unsalted whole pumpkin seeds, shelled
1/2 c. dried apricots, densely packed & diced

Directions: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9" x 12" baking tray with aluminium foil (for easy cleanup) & coat with extra virgin coconut oil, using a pasty brush. In a food processor, mix together all dry ingredients, minus pumpkin seeds & dried apricots, & pulse until finely ground. Pour in all wet ingredients & pulse just until dry ingredients have become moist. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add pumpkin seeds & thoroughly combine with a spatula. Next, add dried apricots & gently mix together, being very careful not to press down on them too hard or they'll become mushy. (You don't want to mash them into oblivion. ;) ) Spread mixture onto the baking tray, to a 3/4" thickness, pressing down to evenly distribute it across the tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Watch oven carefully to make sure bars do not become brittle and overly dry, &/or burned. When ready, remove from oven & place onto a wire cooling rack or heat-proof trivet. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before dividing into bars, but don't wait too long either. Cut into them while they're still warm or they'll be more difficult to cut. Divide into 12 rectangular bars, 2 1/4"x 4" x 3/4" each. Any bars you won't be consuming right away can be placed into a plastic container, tightly sealed with a lid. Or, divide up bars into snack-sized portions & place into Ziploc/plastic bags for on-the-go snacking. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes 12 rectangular, 2 1/4"x 4" x 3/4" bars.

Chef's Notes: For people with tree-nut allergies, just eliminate the tree nuts & substitute with soy nuts. To make this recipe vegan, just substitute nonfat dry soy milk powder for the nonfat dry milk powder.

Also, there's no need to freak out about the use of coconut oil. ;) Coconut oil, when consumed in moderate amounts, is actually one of the few healthy saturated fats that actually helps to create/burn energy within the body, as opposed to most saturated fats, which have minimal health benefits & just end up sticking to your rear end. ;) It's not uncommon for athletes to ingest small amounts of coconut oil to naturally enhance their energy during workouts. When used in moderation, it's also been shown to be beneficial as a weight loss aid as well.


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