LARA bars are kind of my kryptonite. I love nuts and dates, so a bar with that delicious combination means I can’t help but eat the whole thing, rather than save half. I try to only buy them for special occasions, because otherwise I would eat one a day.
That wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing for be, because LARA Bars are one of the healthiest snack bars out there – few ingredients (nine max, and most have four or five), gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, Kosher, non-GMO, and no added sugars (except for the chocolate chips), preservatives, fillers, or colorings. I like products that I can say and name on one hand.
They make a great snack, pre-workout energy boost, and dessert. So what’s the downside? They’re pricey. Also, all their flavors include nuts, meaning those with nut allergies can’t enjoy their deliciousness.
Because I love to make everything from scratch, I’ve made a variety of fruit and nut “bites” (about half the serving of a LARA Bar) over the last few years – recipes are all over the web and in lots of vegan/raw cookbooks. A few of my favorites include the raw balls from the Kind Diet (they need a better name, but are amazing – my friends know them as vegan truffles), and the chocolate chip cookie homemade LARA bars and dark chocolate energy bites from ohsheglows.
I was telling work colleagues about my love for these homemade LARA bars, especially the chocolate chip cookie ones – they really do taste like chocolate chip cookie dough! My (somewhat over-the-top) excitement about homemade LARA bars excited one of my colleagues, but she soon realized she couldn’t make them because her son is allergic to nuts. So, the inspiration came – develop a recipe for nut-free LARA bars.
After a bit of trial and error, I’ve developed the following recipe. I think it will probably still need a little tweaking, but for now it’s pretty close. Raw or toasted sunflower seeds both work in this recipe, choose based on your flavor preference. I’ve tried both and couldn’t make up my mind which I like better. More flavors are to come – I have a few ideas that I want to try.
Whether you use my recipe or one of the gazillion other ones out there, do give this tip a try – use an ice-cube tray to form the bites. In the past, I’ve just rolled them into a ball, which didn’t necessarily look all that appetizing and was kind of messy. Using an ice-cube tray is great to get standard-sized bites that look a little nicer and don’t get your hands covered in date paste.
Fill up the tray, press it down with a spoon, and stick it in the freezer to harden for a couple of hours.
Remove from the tray into a storage container (I used a knife to help pop them out), and keep them in the fridge in an air-tight container for a week or two (if they last that long). There are some fun ice-cube and cookie trays out there – you could experiment with some creative shapes for you bites!
What flavor energy bites do you want me to develop a recipe for? Let me know in the comments.
Chocolate Chip Energy Bites
Yield 8 bites (using an ice-cube tray)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted* or raw
1/2 cup dates, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon chocolate chips
dash of salt
Pulse the sunflower seeds for a few seconds to break them down. Add the rest of the ingredients, and process until crumbly, and sticks together when you press a clump of it in your hands. Spoon into an ice-cube tray, and press down with a spoon. Freeze for 2 to 3 hours, or until hardened. Remove from the ice-cube tray using a butter knife, and store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
* Toast sunflower seeds yourself rather than buying pre-toasted seeds at the store – this makes sure they are fresh and don’t have any hidden added salt. To toast, place on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven, and toast for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes.
Here’s nutritional information per bite, calculated with loseit.com. I also calculated it using MacGourmet, and results were similar.Total Calories 106, Total Fat 6.1g, Total Carb. 9.6g, Fiber 1.6g, Sugars 7g, Protein 2.6g