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Addictive Fruited Energy Bars

Tu Bishvat is upon us and I'm loving the festive focus - and savings offers - on dried fruit 'n nuts. I'm throwing cut-price cranberries into yogurt, cookie dough and salads. My cinnamon rolls feature reduced-price raisins. And my family are being served Chicken Marbella - find the past newsletter recipe for this delicious chicken dish featuring prunes, apricots 'n pecans on the Meatland website - more often than perhaps they'd choose. I've also made these incredible addictive, fruited energy bars 3 times within the last 10 days and am already looking for an excuse to make them again. It's easy to understand the appeal. Apart from the fact that they taste sublime - American friends have compared them to homemade Kind bars - they're gluten-free, parve, vegan and super healthy too. Don't be put off by what may appear to be a lengthy ingredients list and unconventional recipe method. Everything is easy to find and and surprisingly low in cost, you can make adaptations to suit your taste, and they're truly quick 'n easy to make. Celebrate Tu Bishvat every certainly won't want to enjoy these only once a year.

SEED/NUT MIX ½ cup whole almonds in skins 1 cup blanched sliced almonds ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans ½ cup sunflower seeds ¾ cup pumpkin seeds ½ cup sesame seeds (can add linseed) 2 tablespoons canola/coconut/olive oil 2 to 3 tablespoons silan or honey FRUIT MIX 1 cup cranberries OR cranberries/apricot mix 2 tablespoons silan or honey 2 tablespoons coconut/canola/olive oil 1 teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon vanilla 1: Pour nuts and seeds onto a large baking tray, add the 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 to 3 tablespoons of silan/honey, toss till well coated and bake at 170 C – tossing occasionally – for approximately 20 minutes till beginning to turn golden. 2: While nuts etc are toasting, process ingredients listed under 'fruit mix' till well chopped and slightly paste-like, and then mix this with the nuts and seeds to coat well. 3: Empty mixture into a standard foil baking pan – bars will be quite thick – and press down with a spatula or bottom of a glass till well compressed. (See notes for how to make rounds instead of bars.) 4: Bake at 170 for approximately 25 minutes till lightly browned and no longer sticky, then cut into bars when cool, and store in an airtight container. COOK'S NOTES: This recipe is extremely flexible and you can change nuts and seeds as desired. Try not to leave out whole almonds though as these add wonderful nuttiness. Though the recipe may seem unconventional, it's very easy, and you are basically making a 'fruit glue' to hold seeds/nuts together when baking. Instead of bars - which you have to cut quite big or they break - you can make rounds by spooning mixture into silicone or aluminium foil cupcake trays and pressing down with the bottom of a glass before baking. You get far more servings from your mixture this way. Bars make a great energy boosting snack and are also wonderful broken into yogurt, sprinkled over ice-cream, or served with fruit.

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