By Jolene Lamb, coordinator, Culinary Institute, Lincoln Land Community College
Energy bars have been popular for several years now. They can be found in many different sections of the grocery store. I’ve noticed them everywhere from the organic section, to the cereal aisle, next to the cookies and crackers, even in the bakery area.
Among the numerous brands available are different styles marketed as breakfast bars, snack bars, meal replacements and diet bars. They are an easy meal or snack eaten on the go. I usually keep a box on hand at work in case a mid-morning or afternoon bite is needed.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with making my own. Instead of forming them into bars, I roll and form them into small balls or bites. I’ve tried a few no-bake versions that are easy to make and pretty tasty too. A few of the key ingredients in many no-bake recipes are oats, fruits, seeds, nuts and nut butters. The nut butters act as a binder to hold the product together. Nut-free recipes often use ripe bananas, raisins and dates as their binding ingredient.
I’ve found many of the no-bake recipes utilize shelf stable ingredients which don’t necessarily require refrigeration; however, I always store them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life, and the cool temperatures help them to hold their shape.
Another tip: try making several batches and freeze to enjoy later. Form little balls or bites and line them up on parchment-covered sheet trays, then place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to one hour. Once frozen, divide them up into small portions and place in a freezer bag to keep.
The recipes I’ve tried stored well in the freezer for up to a month. Called breakfast bites, energy balls and healthy truffles, here are a few recipes I enjoy.
Chocolate Chip No-Bake Bars
Makes 9 bars or 24 1-inch bites
- 1 cup dates (pitted)
- 1¼ cups crisp rice cereal
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped peanuts
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
Spray an 8×8-inch pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
Place the dates in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Combine the pureed dates with the cereal, oats, peanuts, flaxseed, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
Combine the peanut butter and brown rice syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and completely blended. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir until well combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly to pack the mixture into the pan. Let the mixture sit until completely cool and set, at least 1 hour. Cut into bars, then wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
No Bake Blueberry Energy Bites
Makes approximately 12 1-inch balls
- 1/2 cup oat flour
- 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (optional)
- A pinch sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar or sweetener
- 2 tablespoons nut butter of choice (I use cashew butter)
- 2 tablespoons dried blueberries
- 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
In a food processor, combine the flour, protein powder, cinnamon and sea salt and mix well. Add the dried blueberries. Stir in the nut butter until mixture is slightly crumbly.
Using a tablespoon, add the soy milk one tablespoon at a time until a thick, firm dough is formed. Refrigerate until firm.
Using a small scoop, form into bite sized balls and enjoy or freeze for later.
Tropical Fruit Bites
This recipe from Every Last Bite is dairy-free, grain/gluten-free, paleo and vegan
Makes 16 1-inch squares
- 1 1/2 cups naturally dried mango, diced
- 1 cup naturally dried apricots, diced
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend for 2-3 minutes until the dried fruit has broken down into crumb-sized pieces and all of the ingredients are clumping together into a ball.
Remove the ingredients and place in an 8 x 8 inch baking pan. Firmly flatten the mixture evenly across the pan; it should be approximately 1/2 an inch in thickness.
Place the pan in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour but preferably overnight to allow the mixture to harden and become easier to cut.
Once firm to the touch, cut into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for over a month.
Cherry & Tahini Energy Balls
This recipe from Every Last Bite is also dairy-free, grain/gluten-free, paleo, refined sugar-free and vegan
Makes 20 balls
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup dried cherries naturally sweetened
- 2/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Place all of the above in a food processor and blend until broken into small pieces. Depending on the strength of your food processor you may need to grind each ingredient separately and then mix everything together at the end.
Form the mixture into 20-25 balls, if it becomes too crumbly place the mixture in the fridge for approximately 15 minutes to harden.
Store the energy balls in a sealed container in the freezer for up to a month.
Divide the mixture and roll these into 24 small ball truffles.
Roll each ball in the palm of your hands packing to form; note these will be soft. Chill in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes until cool.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.