In order to fuel him for his expedition to the summit of Mt. Ranier this summer, my husband requested an extra-chocolatey power bar that wouldn't crumble on the trail. Adapted from Chow.com's power cherry bar recipe, I added almond butter to bump up the protein, extra dates for structural integrity and handfuls of chocolate for the obvious reasons. Easily adapted to be vegan and gluten-free if desired. —souptastic
coconut oil (and more to coat the pan)
rolled oats (not instant, gluten-free if needed)
raw sliced almonds
walnut halves, finely chopped (pulsed in food processor works well)
raw wheat germ (see note; for gluten-free, substitute oats pulsed fine in the food processor)
raw unsweetened shredded coconut
flax seed meal
honey (or sub maple syrup or rice syrup for vegan)
1/4 (heaping) teaspoons
dried sweetened sour cherries
1/2 (packed) cups
pItted dates (about 14 small dates)
1 1/4 cups
semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
Heat the oven to 350° with a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with coconut oil or Pam and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, coconut, and flax seed meal. (Note, if using wheat germ that is already toasted, add it to the mix after the toasting step) Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Bake, stirring halfway through, until almonds are light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Transfer the toasted mixture back to the large bowl when cool enough to handle.
Add cherries and dates to the food processor bowl and process until the fruit forms a dough-like ball; transfer to a medium size microwave-safe bowl. Add almond butter, honey, salt, cinnamon and coconut oil and microwave until everything is warm and soft, about 1-2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until well-incorporated (the mixture will be a bit clumpy). Fold in the chocolate chips.
Transfer mixture to your oiled pan and spend a good couple of minutes pressing the mixture down with a spatula until it is firmly and evenly compacted together.
Pop the pan back into the oven until fragrant and chocolate has melted, about 10 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and repeat the pressing and smoothing process again (this ensures the bar will stick together).
Allow the pan to cool to the touch (about 20 minutes), but still slightly warm and melty. Use a knife to pull the bars away from the sides slightly, then place a cutting board over the top and invert to release the bars. If the chocolate solidifies it will stick to the pan and be a bit more difficult to coax out.
Place the bars (on the cutting board) in the fridge until cold (about 20 min). Use a nice sharp chef's knife to cut the block in half, then each half into 5 even bars. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge or freezer (let come to room temp before eating).