I rarely leave home without a granola bar tossed in my bag, but I’m not a big fan of the processed ingredients and refined sugars that are in most of them. So lately I’ve been really into making my own, and when I hit upon some of the great no-bake versions out there, I started tooling around with different flavor combinations to create my dream bar. I’m currently hooked on this new Superfood Chocolate from Aloha and have been dying to use it in a recipe, and since its concentrated nutritional power is best unheated, these no-bake bars were the perfect opportunity! Besides, who doesn’t love a crunchy, gooey granola bar packed with peanut butter and chocolate… especially when it happens to be vegan, gluten-free, and packed full of good-for-you ingredients to fuel you through an afternoon?
These make for a really fun weekend baking activity, because you can get creative and riff on the recipe using whatever ingredients you have on hand. Got cranberries, almonds, or banana chips? Toss ’em in! Phoebe loves to “help” me make these, so I usually measure out the ingredients for her and let her do the dumping. And since even the chocolate is healthy, I don’t mind her doing some pre-snacking while we prepare them together.
So let’s just talk about this Aloha Chocolate for a sec, shall we? I got to sample it soon after the launch and was totally blown away, first by its delicious flavor, and second by how chock full of nutritional benefits it is. It’s hard to believe by the melt-in-your-mouth consistency that superfood greens are combined with fair-trade organic cacao in each bar. The ingredients list is all organic and includes coconut sugar, wild blueberries, raw coconut flakes, and cashews (plus greens like spirulina, spinach & wheatgrass!), but really all you taste is the smooth high-quality chocolate.The ingredients in these granola bars are so good, no one will blame you if you just toss them all together to make a “trail mix” and don’t get around to actually making the recipe! I’ve been keeping a mason jar in the pantry that’s filled with an antioxidant-rich mix of dried berries, almonds, walnuts, and chopped up pieces of Aloha Chocolate. It’s the perfect treat for mid-afternoon cravings, and has become my favorite traveling companion on my most recent flights.I can’t think of a better way to treat yourself than with a piece of really high-quality chocolate (okay, maybe it’s tied with getting a massage), and I’m a big believer that there’s room for a few bites of chocolate in every single day. Regular chocolate eaters report less stress, and isn’t occasionally indulging your sweet tooth an important aspect of just enjoying life? In case you need more convincing, here’s an explanation of the health benefits of cocoa, including lowering cholesterol levels, preventing cognitive decline, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Keep reading for the recipe, and if you give these no-bake bars a try, I’d love to hear what you think – and whether you try swapping in any different ingredients to make your own combination!
*photos by kate stafford
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 ½ cups pitted dates, roughly chopped
- ¾ cup agave
- ¾ cup salted peanut butter
- ¾ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
- ½ cup chopped aloha chocolate
- Prepare a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper to prevent sticking: cut 2 sheets of parchment long enough to line the bottom of the pan with some extra hanging over the sides. Spray the bottom of the dish with nonstick cooking spray, lay one sheet across the pan, spray parchment, then lay the other piece of parchment in the opposite direction.
- In a blender or food processor, puree the dates until they're mostly smooth and are the consistency of a sticky "dough." In a medium bowl, combine oats, dates, peanuts, & coconut. Toss to combine.
- Combine agave and peanut butter in a microwave-safe dish, and gently heat on 50% power for about 20 seconds until just warm (alternately, you can gently heat on the stove.) Pour over the oat mixture and use a spoon to mix everything together until well blended. This is a good time to break up any dates that might not have pureed. Let cool for a few minutes, until room temperature.
- Stir in chopped chocolate, then immediately transfer to prepared dish. Using fingers, press down firmly until bars are flattened and tightly packed together. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour (or freeze for 20 minutes) until hardened.
- Press down until flattened and tightly packed together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or freeze for 20 minutes until hardened. When ready to cut, lift edges of the parchment paper to remove from pan. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars, then store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (or freeze for up to 1 month for a great on-the-go snack!)