Is there such a thing as a healthy snack”? I am not talking about fruit and vegetables, more like a granola bar type of snack. They are so convenient to have for traveling, or just when you are on the go. Recently, I set out on a mission to discover recipes for homemade snack bars that taste great, are nutritious, and low in refined sugar. Not a snack bar that is as heavy as a door stop and tastes like cardboard, (the vegetarian baked goods of the early 70’s still haunt me), but something lighter for a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon.
This all started because I made a pledge several years ago. I promised to myself that if there was a dessert or treat I really wanted to eat, like cookies, I would make it and not buy it. Store bought cookies are not allowed in the house. I do this to control my snacking binges and it really works. Phase two, of my pledge is to add more items on my list, like snack bars. Honestly, I haven’t bought them since I made the pledge, so I am not eating them. However, we need a better stock of snacks in our pantry, so I don’t binge on crackers or chips.
Over the past two weeks I have scoured the internet looking for solid recipes in the granola bar category. Each one had large amounts of sugar and they were all in “soft” snack bar variety. Don’t people want crunchy snack bars? Don’t people crave that crunchy texture and is one of the reasons why chips are so damn good? I like crunchy granola bars so I will table this quest for another day.
One recipe caught my attention from the cookbook “Life In Balance”, by Donna Hay. The cookbook features several snack recipes all made with whole foods and good health in mind. It is not a crunchy granola bar, but all the ingredients are nutritious and foods I enjoy. I choose the Cacao, Banana, Date, and Cashew Bars recipe to test today, because it meets all my requirements, except being crunchy. Another bonus, I had all the ingredients except the cashews. However, I did have a bag of walnuts for an easy substitution. Also, this recipe allowed me to use up some bananas that were getting too ripe.
What I like about this snack bar is there is no refined sugar, no flour, and no dairy. It is filled with natural cocoa powder, bananas, fresh dates, walnuts, and a little vegetable oil. The 4 wholesome ingredients get puréed in a food processor then baked until firm. They taste like a bittersweet fudgy chocolate brownie. The cocoa flavor stands out, but it is not as bitter because of the dates, bananas, and walnuts. I would like them to be a little denser with more variation in texture, but the taste is very pleasing. If you crave a sweet fix for your snacks and love dark chocolate, this is the snack for you.
More snack foods for a light meal or picnic
All the ingredients are nutritious in their own right, but mixed together they make a nutritious snack bar that won’t weight you down with extra fat and sugar. According to My Calorie Counter from Fitness Pal, each snack bar has 228 calories, 21 g carbs, 17 g fat, 0 cholesterol, 3 g protein, 4 mg sodium, 14 g sugar, and 4 g fiber.
Cocoa Banana Nut Snack Bar
- 1/3 cup 35 g natural unsweetened cocoa
- 3/4 cup 180 g firmly packed chopped pitted fresh dates (9-10 dates)
- 1/4 cup 60 ml vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cup 200 g chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3/4 cup 200 g mashed bananas (2-3 bananas)
- coconut flakes for sprinkling
Pre-heat the oven for 325°F (160°C). Line an 8 x 8 inch pan (20 cm x 20 cm) pan with parchment paper. Use two strips wide enough to cover the bottom of the pan and long enough to extend up and over the sides of the pan. One strip will crisscross the other, so all the sides of the pan are covered. This is so you can easily lift out the snack bars and cut them.
Place all the ingredients, expect the coconut flakes, in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Plop the cocoa, fruit and nut mixture into the parchment lined pan, then spread evenly across the bottom.
Sprinkle with the coconut flakes.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until firm to touch. Set the timer for 35 minutes to check and gauge the progress. Continue baking as needed.
Cool completely in the pan. Remove the cocoa banana nut snack bar out of the pan by lifting the sides of the parchment paper and placing it on a cutting board. Make one slice across the middle, then six even slices across each half making 12 snack bars. Store the snack bars in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Will last for to one week.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.