No Bake Toasted Oat Cocoa Peanut Butter Bars

These bars are super easy to make and much better than your average store bought version. When I’m in the grocery store, I’m always tempted to pick up a few snack bars for the road. Then, I stand in front of the shelves completely overwhelmed by the seemingly endless selection of snack/protein/energy bars in the world. It’s like a brick wall of colors and words yelling at me from inside their little cardboard cubbies, each one claiming to be the best. Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo, 10000 grams of protein…I just want something that tastes good, isn’t terrible for me and has a relatively better nutrition profile than a Snickers Bar.

So, after way too much time spent standing in the aisles of Whole Foods (I think they get concerned after a while,) I decided to just make my own and put exactly what I wanted into it. Thus, the winning combination of creamy peanut butter, rich cocoa powder, crunchy cereal and toasted oats was born. The great part about these is that once you have the base, you can practically add whatever you like in terms of dried fruit, nuts or seeds.

Now, there is no ADDED sugar in this recipe, but the bars still get a good amount of sweetness from dates. Dates are about 60-70% sugar, so they’re no free pass when it comes to calories, but they also pack fiber, magnesium, potassium, copper and B vitamins to boost your nutrient profile. I used 1 8oz package of pitted dates that I soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes and processed with 3/4 cup of freshly ground peanut butter. NOTE: Your peanut butter shouldn’t have any other ingredients in it besides peanuts. Look out for added sugar, oils and salt! I added the date and PB mixture to my dry ingredients, pressed into a parchment paper lined 9 x 9 pan, and froze the bars for a few hours until hardened.

For a crunch, I used Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs Cereal. I love these for so many reasons. First, the serving size is a full cup which is rare for cereal. Second, there is no added sugar, salt, oils. It’s just their 7 whole grain blend and contributes 3 grams of fiber per cup. Nice! For the oats, I toasted 1 cup of regular  (not quick cooking) rolled oats. For the rest, I added chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts, cocoa powder and dash of cinnamon to taste. Feel free to experiment with different spices like ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, etc. Now that these bars are in my life, I have no desire to stand in the snack bar aisles anymore! I keep them in the freezer so they’re good to go when I need to throw one or two in my lunch box.

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