Setting the Bar High

What’s the deal with bar-shaped foods (especially for breakfast and snacks)? Most people of the world wholly embrace the ability to eat-and-go, especially as we grow older and have to juggle commutes, meetings, kids’ activities, and errands daily. What could be better than knowing you can hit the snooze button 3 or 4 times and still make it to work on time because you can simply grab a Cliff Bar on your way out the door?

I don’t condone most of the activities usually associated with on-the-go foods (eating and driving, to name one) or even the foods themselves (Pop Tarts, Hot Pockets, Nutri-Grain Bars and the like), despite the fact that most of my young adult life was spent eating these very things. Sure, nowadays I have basically shunned the vast majority of pre-packaged foodstuffs, but a mere five years ago I was a Pop Tart-loving, Hot Pocket heater-upper just like everyone else. A very, very common “breakfast” would be a two-pack of S’mores Pop Tarts (cold, of course… who has the time to toast those things anyway??!!) shoved into my backpack while I ran to my 8am class, chugging a bottle of Starbucks Mocha Frappucino beverage. Oh, how times have changed… but how did we get here?

History is full of one-handed on-the-run meals that aren’t as disastrous as Ice Cream Shoppe Pop Tarts (which I still can’t believe are a real thing). Empanadas, despite containing wheat in the dough, are damn good eats that date back half a millennium and contain plenty of protein and, depending on the specific culture, a good amount of veggies. Hell, any amount of vegetables is more than that in the original Cheddar & Broccoli Hot Pocket! There are also a variety of Vietnamese Banh and other hand-held springroll-type dishes in other parts of Asia that are nutrient-dense and perfect for eating on the run. Samosas are common in India, Africa, and are sold by street vendors in many large cities in the US and Europe.

Well, what about the sweet stuff? Turnovers are super-sweet, usually fruit- or chocolate-filled, and very popular in Europe. I think, sadly, that Toaster Strudel actually thinks itself to be some kind of turnover. What’s worse are its breakfast equivalent, which I had eaten for breakfast countless times in high school. (Mom, now that I know you read my blog, please know that to this day when I see Toaster Scrambles in the store, I gag. I will never, ever forget the foul taste and smell of those things and I can’t believe they still manufacture those!)

With the world becoming more aware of the garbage we eat and how unhealthy we are, there are so many “healthy” items that have appeared on the shelves: Nutri-Grain Bars, Clif Bars, Granola Bars, Larabars, Luna Bars, Powerbars, Oatmeal-to-Go Bars, Fiber One Bars, and so many others. But are they really that healthy? Tons of oats (bad) plus tons of sugar (bad) and tons of vegetable- and/or soy-based oil (bad) preserved with a bunch of additives (really bad). Hmm.

Even so, I love my bars – not just the ones that serve alcohol, either! I may not be into M&M Kudos Bars anymore, but I want something I can grab for a snack, dessert, or to pair with coffee! I want something that’s made with real ingredients, no preservatives, and is nutrient-dense. Hell, if it can be in a bar shape, that’s just a bonus! Of course, it’s got to taste good. With these rules, here’s all I could think of: make it myself.

CHOCOLATE ALMOND BARS
Yields 6 bars.

  • 12 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds + 12 raw almonds reserved
  • 1 tsp Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (soy-free, dairy-free, and awesome!) + a few tablespoons reserved

Pulse the dates in your food processor until broken down. Add 1/2 cup almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, and coconut flour. When combined, put mixture in a bowl and mix in the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips by hand.

Turn out the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil and flatten into a rectangle shape about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 6 equally-sized bars, reshaping if necessary. Push two almonds and some chocolate chips onto the top of each bar, then wrap in foil or parchment paper.

Store in the fridge for up to a 10 days.

Did I mention these are paleo and vegan? Yes, sir!

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