Almond Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

Do you ever have those afternoons when it's not late enough to start dinner, but it's been long enough since lunch that you're starting to get hungry? Maybe lunch wasn't quite big enough, or you've been busy all day and you just need a little snack to get you through the late afternoon. I have these days from time to time, and I'm always looking for something to have on hand that is the perfect pick-me-up when I need a little boost of energy. When I saw the recipe for these bars, I was intrigued. They are not really my typical type of baked good but they looked fairly healthy, packed full of fruit and nuts with no added sugar. I decided to give them a try with several modifications to suit me and my pantry, and I ended up really liking them. With almost the texture of an under baked blondie, and full of fruit, nuts, and chocolate these bars really hit the spot. Healthy and tasty, a great combination and the perfect way to energize yourself while waiting for dinner.

I've seen recipes that use dried fruit as a binder and a sweetener, but I'd never tried them before. I wasn't sure how I would like them, or what exactly they would taste like. It turns out that this works really well, and I actually did enjoy them. The flavor of the dried fruit was definitely present, but with all of the other flavors going on it was okay. The fruit also made the bars very sweet without any extra sugar which is great. And these are easily made gluten free by replacing the wheat germ with flax seed meal. I especially liked the texture of these bars. I love things that are gooey and under baked, and these almost had that texture. So in the end I really did enjoy these bars, and would definitely make them again. A great healthy and nutritious snack that satisfies your sweet tooth and fills you up just enough to make it to your next meal. That's a winner in my book.

Almond Chocolate Chip Oat Bars
Heavily adapted from Our Family Eats
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 3/4 oz) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (4 3/4 oz) natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) butter (or extra virgin coconut oil), melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ripe bananas 
  • 1 cup dried apricots (or dates), packed
  • 1 cup of your favorite mix in: dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, or my favorite, chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup your favorite nut, chopped (I used almonds, but I think pecans and walnuts would be great too)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x9 inch baking dish with butter or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Place oats, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, wheat germ, almond meal, cinnamon, baking powder, and bananas in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add apricots to the mixture in the food processor and process again until smooth, about 1 more minute.

Using a wooden spoon gently stir in chocolate chips (or dried fruit, whichever your prefer) and nuts.

Spread mixture into prepared pan using the wooden spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top if firm to the touch.

Place pan onto a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars or shapes and let cool completely on the wire rack. Store in an airtight container on the counter for about 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.