We just returned from a mini end-of-summer vacation. When on vacation, I eat like calories don’t count and sugar has no effect. Of course I’ll have a maple bar, French fries, and milkshake for lunch.
Yes, that really happened. Oh, Vacation, I love you so bad. By the time we get home and I’m loading dirty clothes into the washing machine, though, it hits me. I feel crummy. Sugar crash. Why do I do this to myself?!
It’s time to buckle down and get ready for the school year, whatever that may look like right now. Which means telling my brain that Summer Vacation Eating is over; it’s time to get back on track.
This recipe for Homemade Larabars has become one of my go-to no-sugar treats. Keep them stashed in the freezer for school lunches or quick snacks. We’ll grab one when working in the yard or running errands. My husband loves these things; he packs a couple of them in his bike bag before a long ride.
I like to eat one before going for a morning run. They are a great energy boost using a combination of dates, oats, flax, and nuts.
Just like with real Lara Bars, the sweetness comes from finely chopped dates. I like the Deglet Noor dates; the popular Medjool variety taste too sweet to me. You can find pitted dates in the bulk section of most stores. I have read that Middle Eastern grocery stores have cheap prices on dates. I have never been in a Middle Eastern grocery store, but this is Portland. We have these, right?
2020 UPDATE: The bulk section in many stores is not open right now, but many stores in my area are pre-packaging bulk items so you may still be able to find dates there.
Once you get the hang of the basic recipe, it is open to endless flavor combinations. As long as the bars have the right consistency and enough moisture to hold them together, it’s hard to mess these up. Just pulse everything together in your food processor, scoop and press the dough, and stick in the refrigerator or freezer until firm. That’s all it takes to create your own knock-off Larabars at home.
Switch gears from summer to school, starting with this simple recipe!
12 oz. pitted Deglet Noor dates
1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free or omit entirely for a true Larabar-feel)
1 1/2 c. nuts (really anything works here!)
1 T. ground flax seed
1/2 t. almond or vanilla extract
2 T. almond or rice milk
1/2 c. goji berries, cacao nibs, mini chocolate chips (Enjoy Life is a great allergy-friendly brand), dried fruit etc.
- In a food processor, pulse the dates until they are roughly chopped and about the same size pieces.
- Add the oats, nuts, and flax; pulse for about 30 seconds, or until all ingredients are a uniform texture.
- Add the extract and milk and pulse for a few more seconds.
- Add your choice of additional ingredients (1/2 cup of goji berries, cacao nibs, chocolate chips, dried fruit, etc.) and pulse until they are evenly distributed throughout the “dough” and no large chunks remain.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a size-30 scoop, scoop the dough into mounds.
- With slightly wet hands (to prevent sticking), carefully press each mound into a round disc.
- Refrigerate at least 1 hour, covered lightly with plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator, or freeze until solid and then transfer to a freezer storage container or bag.
To catch up on our no/low sugar series, check out these previous posts:
- Why my family is cutting out refined sugar
- Different types of sugars & sweeteners: A basic guide
- 7 simple ways to reduce sugar in your diet
- Easy no-bake energy bites (gluten, dairy, and sugar-free recipe)
Cacao nibs are just crushed cacao beans. You can buy sweetened or unsweetened. Amazon carries a wide variety of cacao nibs, but I like the Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao Nibs (Amazon). They’re an unusual source for antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber. We love adding cacao nibs to granola bars or energy bites. They add crunch and a dark chocolate flavor, without sweetness. It’s perfect for a recipe like these Larabars that already get plenty of sweetness from the dates.
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