I may be kind of alone on this as a US consumer, but I, for one, am a thoroughly puzzled by the snack bar category. Here, in a nutshell, is what goes through my fuzzy little brain as I drift down these aisles:
First there is that vast selection of vaguely medical looking bars, many of which are associated with one of the popular diets, (Zone, Atkins, diabetic-friendly, high-protein, etc). Many of these, I believe, are supposed to be acceptable as meal replacements. I never go near these as I have always assumed they were for people enrolled in some kind of program, and I go into a glazed-over state, a bit like a person with no kids as they walk down the diaper aisle.
Next, there are the standard granola bars, which are mostly sugar, with some oats thrown in for bulk. I find most of these to be sickly sweet and never buy them. If I’m going to pack in that much sugar, I’d much rather eat a chocolate bar
Then there is the “high-end” snack bar category- Kind, Lara Bars, Nature’s Bakery, etc. I used to think these were also for people enrolled in a program, but I recently realized that this is not the case and I like some of them. So these are the ones that I buy if I ever do buy snack bars, but many of them are very expensive, often upwards of $2 a bar.
So you know where I’m going with this… I set out to try to create my own little snack bar that I could put in lunches or even carry around myself if I needed a little snack in the afternoon. This turned out to be one of those recipes that bugged me for a while, and cost me more than a few pennies to test, but I am finally very happy with it and I hope you are too. I put in lots of nutritious, but easy to find, ingredients and gave the whole thing a chocolate spin, which I love. So if you suffer from snack bar confusion, I promise these will solve the problem!!
My chocolate snack bars:
- 1/4 cup date paste, or 5-6 pitted dates
- 3/4 cup walnuts, pecans, or other nuts
- 1/2 cup oatmeal (toasted oat bran also works great)
- 1 cup Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets, Grape Nuts, or similar cereal
- 3 heaping tbsp hot chocolate mix (I use the 25% lower sugar Nesquick)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt (don’t skip)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup dark chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Blend all of the ingredients except the melted chocolate in a food processor for 1 minute. Add one or two tablespoons of water, just until the mixture starts to stick together. Note that different types of dates have very different water contents, so add water accordingly.
Press the mixture into a square 9 x 9 dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.
Next, bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set and beginning to brown a bit. This is hard to tell because of the color of the mixture, but use your best judgment. Remove from oven.
To add the chocolate layer, either distribute chocolate chips onto the hot snack bars and spread after 2 or 3 minutes, (at which point they will be melted) or melt chocolate in the microwave, checking and stirring very frequently to be sure not to scorch it, and then spread in a thin layer onto snack bars. Cover and refrigerate until chocolate is set and then cut into bars.