Super Seed and Nut Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
April! Oh hello.
This month is bringing about the beginning of an end. The beginning of my last term in graduate school, which means that yes, in a few short months I will have my Master’s degree in Nutrition. Holy moly. This past term was one of the most challenging terms of my life, so I can only imagine what this upcoming final term will bring. This month also kicks off the second round of my internship with an amazing company where I’m teaching little kiddos all about fruits and veg and making a few super healthy and easy recipes in the process. April also brings about lots of family birthdays – My grandpa is turning 94 (!!) – upcoming friend adventures, and plenty of beautiful Portland weather on tap. This means that pretty much every upcoming weekend will be spent outdoors in the rare Oregon sunshine hiking, exploring, and getting out into nature. Can you tell I’m looking forward to April?
Anyways – all those outdoors adventures? Yeah, that’s where these crazy delicious nutrient dense/gluten free/fiber filled/plant powered/vegan/hearty/nutty/seedy/chocolate chip granola bars come into play. Yes, I’m packing every buzzword possible into this granola bar post, because these bars are seriously that good and seriously that nutritious. Kick those store-bought cardboard tasting and weird addictive-filled granola bars to the curb!
A Whole Lot of Nutrient Density.
Let’s talk about one of those buzzwords: nutrient dense. Unlike calorie dense (or energy dense), nutrient dense implies that the particular food contains high levels of nutrients, including protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. These foods are often minimally processed and found in whole food form. Specifically, nutrient dense foods tend to be nutrient heavy while containing minimal calories. Energy/calorie dense foods, on the other hand, contain high levels of calories per serving and often lack those aforementioned important nutrients. Such foods, including things like soda, potato chips, packaged baked goods, or basically anything you can buy at a gas station, are sources of empty calories, meaning they provide calories to the diet but lack any nutrients or other goodness.
Certain whole foods are both calorie dense and nutrient dense. It’s these kinds of foods to consume when you’re completing an energy depleting activity (exercise, cardio, hiking, organized sports, running, dancing, backpacking, etc.) or if you’re trying to gain weight in a healthy and gentle way. Such foods include nuts and seeds, avocado, dried fruit, and high quality oils such as coconut and olive. These foods are all fantastic additions to everyone’s diet and provide quality fats and important nutrients along with calories. I’m personally into counting goodness, as opposed to counting calories – although calorie counting does have its time and place. When it comes to goodness; nuts, seeds, avocado, dried fruit, and quality oils are all packing the goods!
These granola bars are both nutrient dense and energy dense, which means they are the absolute perfect snack to have on an active day, during a hike, or after a workout. They’re filled with heart loving healthy fats from seeds and nuts like cashews, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds, fiber from dried fruit, and blood sugar stabilizing cinnamon. These chewy granola bars also reap medium chain fatty acids from coconut oil, which provide a boost of energy as they are digested. Because these bars are super portable and substantial, they can easily be taken on the go, or thrown into a purse or backpack for a handy snack. I’ll be slipping one into my bag for the first few days of classes to power both my body and brain through this crazy last term.
Sweet and sticky dried fruit + heart loving healthy fats + crunchy chia, sunflower, and sesame seeds + a heck of a lot of fiber + plant protein + delicious dark chocolate chips and cacao powder = one energy and nutrient dense granola bar to help you totally seize the day!
Super Seed and Nut Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
Makes 8 large bars
1 cup roughly chopped dried figs
1 cup raisins
6 medjool dates, pits removed
1 cup raw cashews
½ cup sunflower seeds (unsalted)
¼ cup sesame seeds
⅓ cup chia seeds
1 cup flaked coconut (unsweetened)
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons cacao powder
Pinch of pink sea salt
In a medium size bowl combine chopped figs, raisins, and pitted dates. Cover with warm water and soak for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine remainder of ingredients, except for cashews, in a separate large bowl and line an 8×8-baking tray with parchment paper.
Drain soaked dried fruits and add to a food processor along with dried cashews. Process until a thick, sticky fruit paste is formed. You may need to pause to scrape down the sides of the food processor from time to time. Note – if you want a bit of extra texture in your bars, leave a few chunks of cashews and dried fruit intact.
Add sticky dried fruit mixture to bowl with remainder of ingredients. Use your hands to work all ingredients together and create a big sticky granola bar dough. If the mixture is too dry, simply add in more melted coconut oil. Spoon mixture into lined baking tray and use your hands to flatten out and press mixture down into the tray. Place granola tray in the freezer to set for about 20 minutes.
Remove baking tray from freezer and cut granola bars into 8 evenly sized bars. Alternatively, cut them into squares or any other size or shape you’d like. Store cut granola bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Frozen granola bars will keep for 3 months, while refrigerated granola bars will keep for 2 weeks – if they last that long!
-Not feeling the chocolate? These bars are also delicious without. Just add in more cinnamon and take out the chocolate chips and cacao powder.
-Gluten free or sensitive? Please make sure that your rolled oats are certified gluten free. Oats themselves are naturally gluten free but often processed in a facility that contains gluten.
-If you’d like, you can swap cashews with another nut or mixture of nuts. I prefer the taste of raw cashews in this bar, but walnuts or almonds would also be ideal. Comment below to let me know the mixture you used!