Into the great wide openUnder them skies of blue Out in the great wide open A rebel without a clue
-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
This weekend, there's a camping trip on the calendar. We're headed to Buckhorn Lake State Park and this soul just can't wait to sprawl out in the woods. I'll be hitting the trails with three amazing people and there's going to be a great deal of delicious food. My darling friend Chetney, a fellow dietetics student and a killer cook (who also blogs over at http://czesiaeats.blogspot.com/), and her husband Marc will be tenting alongside Brandon and I. (camp food recipe series to come!)
Amid buzzing from task to task in preparation for the trip, I baked some hearty, nutty, just-sweet-enough trail bars to keep up our energy as we leg along the paths, float in the lake, or crush PBR cans by firelight.
This recipe is a slight modification of the "almond date breakfast bars" I found in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I used spelt flour in place of whole wheat, sunflower seed butter rather than almond butter, added flax, chia and sunflower seeds and vanilla extract in place of half the almond extract. Thank you, Deb for the excellent recipe.
If you have any road trips or epic hikes in your future, or just lots of busy mornings, I highly recommend baking up a batch of these angels. According to The Smitten Kitchen, they freeze well too, so make a double batch while you're at it.
I like to get most of the ingredients in these bars in the bulk section of a natural foods or well-stocked grocery store. It's cheaper, uses less packaging and I find the staples like oats and wheat germ are always really fresh.
Three Seed Nutty Date Trail Bars
makes 32 two-inch square bars
1 1/2 cups chopped dried pitted dates
2 1/2 quick rolled oats
6 Tbsp whole spelt flour
2/3 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup cashew halves and pieces
1/4 cup flax seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat your lovin' oven to 350 F. Line an 9x13 glass (preferably) or metal pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang off the end on two sides. Or, if you have no parchment paper like moi, grease the pan generously with fat of choice.
Use your clean hands to combine the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. The dates like to stick together in clusters, much like teenagers, but they must be convinced to venture out on their own into the world of oats and nuts, so break them up with your fingers and ignore the comments about how they're never talking to you again.
In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the sunbutter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond and vanilla extracts until smooth. Pour the wet over the dry ingredients, and muscularly stir them together with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients no longer dry.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, then use some plastic wrap or your clean hands to smush the mixture firmly onto the bottom, edges, and corners of the pan.
Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are light brown around the edges. They’ll still seem soft in the center but don't fret – they’ll firm up nicely once completely cool.
Let the bars cool in their pan on a cooling rack.
Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares (or rectangles if you wish). If you start cutting the bars, and they begin to crumble, put them in the fridge for an hour or two and try again. If this doesn't work, congratulations, you just made some awesome granola.
Happy trails. <3