Every year I add a few more steps towards good nutrition. I was inspired to create a homemade version of my favorite store bought breakfast/snack bar to control sugar, oil and salt by using intensely flavored ingredients that can help improve health. The beauty of going homemade allows you to tailor to your own taste.
This bar, consisting of old fashioned rolled oats and a variety of nuts, is spiked with espresso powder, crushed dark chocolate covered espresso beans, and moistened together with extra virgin olive oil. The coffee bean boasts of health benefits and helps to turn up the dark chocolate flavor, also discovered to have a number of healthy benefits. It's sweetened with vanilla powder, palm sugar, hazelnut liquor and bound together with organic blue agave nectar, a natural plant-based sweetener, and finally topped with pinches of flaky sea salt.
I find the sweet and salty combination irresistible and the chocolate espresso a true pick-me-up.
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Chop nuts coarsely, spread on a baking sheet, spritz with olive oil, toast in 300° oven 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool while preparing rest of the recipe.
Smash chocolate covered espresso beans in a Ziploc bag with a mallet: hit each bean once or twice to smash. Set aside until needed.
Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper; cut parchment to extend up the sides of pan a little so that it is easy to pull the oat bar out. Generously spritz parchment with olive oil.
In a wide bowl mix together rolled oats, vanilla powder, espresso powder, palm sugar, nutmeg, salt, nuts and smashed chocolate espresso beans. Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil, stir, saturate throughout.
Heat the agave just long enough to thin it out = right before boiling point. Take off the heat and stir in the hazelnut liquor. Pour agave over the dry ingredients, fold in, saturate throughout. Note: the mixture will have a hard time holding together if not saturated evenly.
Pour oat mixture into the prepared pan; using a spatula spread evenly and press to ensure the mixture is holding together. Sprinkle with pinches of flaky sea salt. Note: an off set spatula works nicely to help press the mixture into corners of the pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Cool in the pan, on a rack, for 30 minutes.
While still warm and pliable, lift out of the pan using the extended parchment paper. Cut into bars as large or small as you like by pushing down with your knife, push the sides of bars to shape if crumbly.
NOTE: if overcooked you will end up with clusters and/or rustic looking bars - €but that's ok, unless you were counting on perfect uniform bars!
Transfer cut bars back to a rack and cool completely.
These bars freeze beautifully or store in an airtight container.