You know me: why buy power bars when you can make them yourself? You will have total control over the ingredients, avoid the plastic wrapper and enjoy a much more delightful dining experience. Well, that’s my opinion, anyway. And making your own bars, snack balls and cookies is much easier than people imagine. This recipe makes quite a supply of tasty, healthy, flexible bars that will be ready in your frig for up to two weeks. After that, they are probably still fine to eat, but will lack flavor and freshness. However, I’m guessing that if you make them and eat one, storing them longer than two weeks just won’t be a problem. Yummy.
So by “flexible” I mean that you can swap the sunflower seed butter that I used for your favorite nut butter, or possibly stir in chopped nuts or even chocolate chips at the end. Maybe you want a super-powered bar and decide to include a scoop of your favorite protein powder—gotta love Natreve Wellness Vegan Protein and a new Blogger Box favorite Growing Naturals AM Energy! If you make it yourself, it’s all up to you. As it should be. And, just in case you are wondering, I’ve used the same unsweetened apple butter from Jackie Mills of Family Garden farm as in last month’s seed cookies. Love this stuff!
So let’s get started—you’ll need a good food processor, a fine grinder that you might use for coffee beans or flax seeds, and a handful of pantry staples—no other special equipment required. As I said, how you customize this bar is your decision, but I’ve provided sunflower seed butter instructions at the end of the post, in case that’s your choice, too.
- One-half cup green pepitas or pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted (350 degrees for about five minutes)
- 10 ounces soft Medjool dates, pitted and rough chopped
- One cup chopped dried apricots (must be unsulfured and organic, see below)
- One-quarter cup sunflower seed butter (To make your own, see the notes after the recipe.)
- One-quarter cup unsweetened apple butter
- One tablespoon unsulfured blackstrap molasses
- One-half cup unsweetened raw coconut flakes
- One tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (the best you can buy, like Penzeys)
- One tablespoon raw cacao powder (Navitas is a great brand.)
- Begin by grinding the toasted pepitas to a fine powder with just a tiny sprinkle of fine sea salt. You can do this in a processor if it has a grind option, but I use a dedicated coffee grinder that takes care of stuff like flax and chia seeds, as well. Put the ground pepitas in the bowl of your food processor, reserving a couple tablespoons for garnish on your bars, if you wish.
- Add the chopped dates and apricots, the apple butter, the sunflower seed butter, molasses, coconut, cacao powder and cocoa powder. Start pulsing until everything is evenly combined and smooth.
- Once you have a smooth, sticky paste, transfer the mixture into a parchment lined dish, 13 X 9. Note that the parchment paper will cooperate better if you lightly oil the dish and then line it. The oil will keep the parchment paper in place.
- Smooth out the date and apricot “dough” in an even layer about a half-inch thick. Refrigerate until set, which will make it easier to cut into bars or squares, whatever your preference. Keep the bars in the frig until you need them, but they will do fine in your lunch box, picnic basket, backpack or swim bag for a few hours. If the trip is an over-nighter, I’d suggest a small cooler.
About the apricots. You will not be pleased with the taste or consistency of your bars if you settle for conventional, sulfured apricots that look pretty but taste sour and have a rubbery chew. Go organic--no subs.
These bars take only a few minutes in the kitchen and a bit of diligent work with your friendly food processor. The end result is somewhere between a power bar and those “fruit rollups” of yesteryear. Here’s what you’re looking for:
To make the sunflower seed butter
As long as you have a decent food processor, you can make all your own nut butters, fresh and with just the amount of seasoning you want—not what someone else has decided is just right. Here is my take on homemade sunflower seed butter that I make in my large-capacity Ninja. And note that you will end up with about three cups, so store your extra in the frig for about two weeks and use it on everything from morning toast, to a lunchtime sandwich to great snacks like these healthy vegan Date Bars.
- Three cups raw hulled sunflower seeds
- One-quarter cup organic hemp oil
- One-quarter cup organic flax seed oil
- One-quarter cup honey
- One teaspoon coarse sea salt
Put the sunflower seeds and the sea salt in the bowl of your processor and pulse a few times to get them going into a powder. With the motor running on low, add the oils and the honey one by one through the top tube or spout until you get the consistency you want. Keep in mind that sunflower seeds are much drier than most nuts, so if you need to add a little extra oil or honey, feel free. And these are my choices—you could use olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. Likewise, if you want less sweetness, use less honey and more oil, although for me the honey and the sea salt counteract the natural slight bitterness of the raw seeds. I like this butter as balanced and smooth as I can get it, so I often add a bit more of each, oil and honey. But you are in control. Do what works for you.
Once you refrigerate your extra butter, you will need to whip it up and add a bit of moisture as you use it. At least, that is my experience. Unlike nut butters, sunflower seed butter comes out a bit dry and crumbly and will dry out even more over time. The addition of the apple butter in the bars rectifies this for the recipe, so feel free to add a bit more apple butter, if you need. But in general, sunflower seed butter responds well to a bit of honey, fruit juice, dairy/nondairy beverage, or extra oil.
Heading outdoors now with a few Date and Apricot Bars in my pack. Sure you are too. It’s Spring, after all!