February 17, 2016 Jennifer

Afternoon Chocolatey Date Bars – A healthy afternoon snack with dates, oats, seeds, that tastes of chocolate chips. We want to be healthy, but let’s also be real…

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Many of us, after the age of 25 or 30 and for whatever reason, have the same story: at some point we started putting on some weight. Typically, it happens before we realize that we can’t keep eating like we did in college anymore. (If only!) At the same time, there’s been a growing need among industrialized nations to really understand what it is in the food we’re eating–the labels on packaged products and meals have dizzying lists of ingredients, many of which we know very little about or why it’s in our food. When I started having to feed a family, I did finally start reading labels and I kept noticing how much sugar was in everything, even things that were supposed to be ‘healthy’. I needed an afternoon snack that could work for both me and the kids that was high in protein, high in fiber, and still tasted like the treat that 3:00pm with a cup of tea and a couple of cookies has so long been for me.

But the food options at the store were just loaded with things I didn’t want myself or my kids to be eating. I wanted something *like* cake — but not cake. This is where courage in the kitchen pays dividends: I started experimenting!! At Forq, we really want to encourage our Foodie Community, when you see a need for a food that Should Be Out There But Isn’t — that is just an opportunity for you to go invent it! The best part about this is truly how little one can know about professional cooking. A little understanding of wet ingredients, dry ingredients, the function of baking powder, and voila! You can start making swaps out of standard mixes to tailor a recipe to your taste & dietary needs. This recipe never really earned a proper name; we still don’t know what to call it other than “Healthy Bars” — and we aren’t specifically making claims about how healthy these bars *will* be for you. But some common sense must show that swapping out processed flour for ground oats and almonds, sweetening with dates and applesauce and bananas, and including seeds to boost the fiber content — these bars must be better than reaching for a box of cookies. And the amazing thing about these is how much they did actually end up being ‘cake-like’. They include chocolate chips, which helps them continue to feel like a treat — and that is, of course, sort of the point.

These did, in addition, turn out to be super kid friendly, too, and made great treats for my kids lunch boxes, as they are surprisingly sweet with very little refined sugar (just 1/2 cup of brown sugar over 20-25 bars). I learned the hard way that you can’t send them with them every day forever, or they do stop eating them. But as part of the weekly or monthly rotation into their lunch boxes, the kids have been big fans of this homemade treat recipe.

We are all on a food journey our whole lives long. Here at Forq, we celebrate food just as much as we celebrate the need to be smart about the food we eat. Eat well, be smart, stay active. And always always — love food!!! It is quality food and exciting, inventive recipes that makes food such a damned exciting adventure. If you make these bars, or have other Afternoon Snack standbys that get you through the day, we want to know about it! Share your photos and/or your recipes over on the Forq app! It’s like “Afternoon Snack” is becoming it’s own, separate meal category right here on Forq!! I never stop loving where Food takes us!

Jennifer’s Afternoon ‘Healthy Bars’

Makes 20-25 bars, depending on size of your preference

Ingredients

WET

  • 8 oz dates (pitted)
  • 2 t baking soda, sprinkled over the pitted dates while they soak (see below)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C soy milk or almond milk
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 C agave syrup
  • 1/2 C brown sugar (packed)
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • 1 T decaf coffee beans (ground fine)
  • 1 C applesauce

DRY

  • 3 1/4 C thick rolled oats
  • 1 C almonds
  • 1/2 C ground flax seed
  • 3/4 C white flour
  • 1 and 1/2 t salt

Mix In Just Before Baking:

  • 1 C sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 C chocolate chips

Method

  1. Pit the dates & soak with 1T baking soda in very hot water (just boiled) for 5 minutes.
  2. While the dates are soaking, grind the oats & almonds in a food processor into a fine flour. Assemble all your dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl; set aside.
  3. When the dates have soaked, drain them & blend them in a food processor until they make a paste. Scrape down the sides, add in the rest of the wet ingredients and process until smooth, about 20-30 seconds.
  4. Poor the wet mixture into your dry ingredients bowl and stir together until combined.
  5. Add in the sunflower seeds & chocolate chips; stir well. Mixture will be fairly thick, depending on how many nuts/seeds/raisins you add at the end.
  6. Lightly spray a 12×18″ jelly roll pan. Or split mixture between glass roasting dishes, if that’s what you have. Turn mixture onto the pan and evenly spread out corner to corner; make sure the thickness is uniform to ensure even cooking.
  7. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Depending on how many nuts/seeds you add at the end, the cooking time can vary.
  8. Cool slightly & cut into 20-25 bars. After they’ve cooled completely (and I’ve eaten 1 or 2), I pop these into a freezer bag and they make an afternoon snack with a cup of tea on the weekdays for a month.

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