Sunday, March 31, 2013

Chocolate and Nut Energy Bars

At about 3 o'clock in the afternoon each day at work, I find my stomach grumbling like nobody's business. I wait it out and then in my desperation, make an unhealthy quick meal when I get home (i.e. quesadilla). This is all because I've never been big on snacks. There's something I find very unsatisfying about eating chips or crackers or a handful baby carrots. I end up eating a bunch, but still feeling hungry. 

It wasn't until my friend Emily started making various energy bars that I reconsidered snacking. Turns out, you can make a snack that has only a few healthful ingredients, is tasty, and is actually satisfying. Usually one energy bar will keep me full for a few hours. Also, thanks to Pinterest, the energy bar combination ideas are endless. 

So far, these bars have been my favorite. They are reminiscent of a fudgy brownie, but not overly rich. In fact, I think they have the ideal balance between nutty, salty, and sweet. 

Simply blend up some toasted nuts, dates, and chocolate and then press the mixture into a pan. They'll keep for a week or so, if you can avoid sharing them with others.

I'd say that the most "difficult" step in making these bars is removing the pits from each of the dates. It's actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Just tear open an end and yank out the pit. Done.

Make sure not to overblend the mixture in the food processor. The first time I made a batch, I blitzed it for 1 minute or so. The food processor steamed up from the heat and the fat was separated from the chocolate. Though the finished product was still delicious, it was very oily and messy. 

Chocolate and Nut Energy Bars
adapted from Knead to Cook

1/2 c cashews, lightly toasted*
1/2 c almonds, lightly toasted*
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup Medjool dates (the soft kind), pitted
1/4 cup chocolate chips (preferably Ghirardelli Bittersweet)
3 Tbsp cocoa powder

*To toast nuts: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast nuts on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Let cool. 

The Bars

In a food processor, blend cashews, almonds and salt until the consistency of a coarse cornmeal, about 15 seconds. Add the dates and blend until mixture begins to pull together, about 30 seconds.  Add chips and cocoa powder. Pulse until chocolate chips are well chopped and the cocoa powder is evenly mixed, about 10 pulses.  The mixture should pull together slightly. Do not over blend, otherwise the mixture will heat up and separate the fat from the chocolate chips.

Press down mixture into a loaf pan (I used a 9" x 5" pan) lined with parchment or wax paper.  Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup to smooth out the top. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour. Cut into bars and keep in a sealed container. Because they tend to dry out in the fridge, leave them on the counter but make sure to eat them in a week or so.

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