Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's a Recession!: Homemade Energy Bars

Not much of a looker, but damn is she good.

Today we debut a new weekly feature, It's a Recession!, where I attempt to make foods at home that I would normally buy at the store. I will freely admit this idea was inspired by this article in Slate where another food blogger attempted to figure out which pantry staples (bagels, cream cheese, etc.) you could make at home more cheaply. The article also led me to her food blog, which is also pretty cool.

Anyway, I thought this was a great idea. My first attempt at yogurt failed. Miserably. More on that in a few weeks once I've gotten it right. Because of that failure, I moved on to something I thought would be a little easier: snack bars. I found a seemingly simple recipe in the "Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook," which I got for my birthday. This attempt was also a miserable failure. I took one to work in my lunch and sent another with CCO. Around lunchtime I was forced to send him this message: "Subject: DON'T EAT IT. Message: Unless it's already too late." His slightly more generous reply: "Yeah. Not so good."

So we'll save that one for another time. Perhaps it is also salvageable.

Feeling horrible about myself for being a failure, I will give you a cool recipe I tried a couple weeks back that has been making its way around some other food blogs. Larabars are made out of all raw ingredients -- mostly nuts and fruits -- with a base of dates. They are tasty, with no-sugar added because of the sweetness of the date, and only about 200 calories each (I knew you'd wonder that part, Annie.) I found the basis for this recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini. This other food blog by Camilla Saulsbury also has a bunch of other variations, but I have not had a chance to try those yet.

Anyway, I played with Clothilde's recipe a little since I couldn't actually find date paste. You can buy Medjool dates in the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods. If you go to Whole Foods, make sure to buy them in the bulk food section where they are $6.99/lb. If you buy them in the pre-made plastic cartons in the produce section, they cost $7.99/lb. Sneaky Whole Foods. You can also find them in the produce section at some Trader Joes stores.

Eat Rating: Awesome. I ate them all within a day and had to make a second batch because I forgot to take a photo.
Difficulty: Easy. Just requires a food processor and a rubber scraper.

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini, "Homemade Larabars"

8 Medjool dates, pits removed and roughly chopped
3-4 tsp water
1/2 cup roasted almonds (LN: Try to get ones that aren't salted. If you have salted, you can rinse them in a colander to remove the salt.)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 heaping tbsp cocoa nibs (LN: Not the chocolate covered ones)

Spray the bottom of a loaf pan with Pam or olive oil. Also tear a sheet of saran wrap or wax paper long enough to cover the pan. Set both aside.

Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add 1-2 tsp of water. Pulse again, then scrape, repeating until the dates are broken down into a paste consistency. It will be a thick, chunky paste, more like a course meal than something like tomato paste. Add the nuts and pulse several times to chop them up. Add the cinnamon, cocoa and nibs, pulsing again until just combined. At this point, my mixture had started to ball in the bowl of the food processor.

Scrape the content of the bowl into the loaf pan. Using the wrap or wax paper, press the mixture into the pan until it is roughly level. Once the pan is filled, place the wax paper or wrap directly onto the bars and refridgerate for at least 4 hours. After the bars are solid, you can cut them in to bars and wrap in wax paper until ready to eat.

My variations:
Chocolate Cherry - Omit the 1/2 cup of walnuts and increase the almonds to 1 cup. Add 1/2 cup of dried cherries when you add the spices and chocolate.

Choco-coconut - Omit the 1/2 cup of walnuts and increase the almonds to 1 cup. Add in 1/2 to 3/4 cup of unsweetened shredded coconut.

Chocolate cranberry - Omit the 1/2 cup of almonds and increase the walnuts to 1 cup. Add in 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.

1 comment:

  1. Hm that makes sense as you are the chef. Speaking of which, has the super sifter arrived yet??? I want to see photos.