Remember a week or so ago when I said I had a major recipe fail? Ideas for how to fix that fail have been swirling through my head ever since. After a week of contemplation I went for a second attempt, and am proud to announce it was a HUGE win!
Every once in a while I like to poll my co-workers about the types of recipes they’re looking for. In one of these recent conversations, one of my friends told me she wanted a healthy snack she could easily make ahead of time and eat at work. She said her usual rotation of snack options was feeling a little stale and that some variety was long overdue.
Around the same time, one of my running buddies mentioned that she was trying to find an alternative to the pre-run snacks she’d been eating around 4pm which mostly consisted of bars that she was buying from Whole Foods, peanut butter on toast, and bananas. As you can imagine, the wheels in my brain started turning and I created a great big list of ideas on my phone that would appease the needs of my co-worker and running buddy.
The idea I landed on was a granola bar, which isn’t earth-shatteringly new by any means, but come with me on this one. My logic was this:
- They’re portable, easy to make at home, and budget-friendly (unlike a lot of store-bought bars)
- The ingredients list can be really simple
- I can keep them gluten-free and vegan-friendly to meet the needs of my 2 inspirations and many of you too
- They can be made in big batches and frozen or stored in the fridge, so they’ll be ready for situations where you need to grab and go
With all these things in mind, I set off creating the first round of Chocolate Cranberry Almond Granola Bars, and they looked beautiful.
But then I pulled them out of the oven and let them cool completely. I lifted the parchment out of my baking dish and cut into them with a nice sharp knife…. but instead of bars, I got granola. They didn’t hold together at all! There are far worse problems to have of course, but I needed to go back to the drawing board.
So I thought, and I ate some granola, and I thought, and I ate a bit more. The chia seed + maple syrup + nut butter + coconut oil combo that I’d used definitely didn’t have enough holding power, so I needed something stronger. In the past I’ve had a lot of success with brown rice syrup in bars, but I didn’t have any and couldn’t be bothered to buy it because I use it so rarely. Honey was also an option, but it’s not vegan.
A few days later it dawned on me. DATES! Dates are the answer! I’ve used them pre-run before and they’re a great source of easy-to-digest carbs (aka energy) for runners. They’re also super sticky, especially when you soak them in a bit of water before chopping them up.
Excited to give this a shot, I literally ran into my kitchen (which isn’t far away from anywhere in my tiny apartment), whirled up a bunch in my food processor and recreated the bars-turned-granola. This time they were perfect.
Just the right amount of stickage to get all the ingredients to hold together, a crazy-delicious bar, and that whole putting them in the oven thing? Not even necessary! All you need to do with these guys is let them firm up in the fridge for a couple of hours. Chop them into bars, wrap them, and voila – you’ve got a snack for work AND pre-run fuel.
Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Cranberry Almond Granola Bars
Prep Time: 10 mins (+ refrigeration)
Cook Time: 6 mins
Ingredients (6-8 bars)
- 1 1/2 cups gluten-free oats
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 cup diced pitted dates (this was 7 medjool dates for me)
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 cup natural almond butter
- 1/2 tsp each vanilla and almond extract
The exciting bits:
- 1/3 cup chopped raw or lightly salted almonds
- 1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
Roughly chop the dates and ensure all pits are out. Soak them in warm water for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Drain the water from the dates. (Soaking will help to ensure that they’re sticky enough to hold the bars together.) Toss them into a food processor and whirl them around, scraping down the edges of the processor bowl occasionally.
Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Combine the almond butter and maple syrup, whisking constantly until a smooth mixture forms, about 3 minutes.
Add the pureed dates and continue stirring for another 2-3 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extract.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir well to incorporate.
Mix in the almond, cranberries and chocolate chips.
Line a baking dish with parchment paper (for easy clean-up). Press the granola mixture into an even layer, using the back of a flipper to flatten it. Alternatively, use a silicone baking dish and skip the parchment paper.
Put the dish in the fridge for a couple of hours (or freezer for 1 hour). Once cool and firm, slice into bars or squares. Keep any leftovers stored in the fridge (if you have any, which is doubtful!)
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So tell me…
- What do you snack on at work?
- Do you have any recipe request for me? Comment below and I’ll add them to the queue! I always like a good challenge. ?