Homemade energy bars and bliss balls

Photos: Marconia Schembri, Stefan Stafrace, Illumina Media, Felix Cesare

Photo George Aquilina during a live tv show

There are so many varieties of energy bars on the market today with whole sections in supermarkets filled with them. The different choices are overwhelming and some provide energy while others may be classed as low carb or high in protein. Most of them satisfy current food trends.

Dried fruit bars became fashionable when they were marketed to a sports audience in the 1960s and 1970s and they have evolved to become a quick meal replacement or possibly the most popular snack food today.

Making your own bars means that you can choose to use ingredients that you like. They require little or no cooking and you just need to make sure that your dried fruits are plump and the nuts you are using are fresh. If the dates, figs or prunes are on the small side, then you may need to add a few extra ones.

There is no magic formula like baking. Grind the ingredients very well so that they blend easily together and hold shape.

Energy bars can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge or a cool place for around three weeks. Most of them freeze very well.

 

Ingredients I use in these recipes:

Maca Powder: the extract of a Peruvian plant best known for improving energy levels and vitality
Aronia: also known as chokeberry and can be found locally as a dried fruit or in liquid and powder concentrate.  It contains high antioxidants and is known to have many beneficial properties
Hemp Seeds: hard brown seeds with a light inner kernel that provide a good source of amino acids, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Carrot date bars with Maca powder

1 large carrot
a pod of vanilla
¼ tsp Maca powder
2 cups oats
1/2 cup dates
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup mixed chopped almonds and pistachio nuts
a pinch of cinnamon
a grating of fresh nutmeg
grated zest of 1 tangerine
water

Photo Illumina Media during a  live tv show

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Wash and grate the carrot.

In a saucepan placed the dates and grated carrot. Add 1/4 cup of water, the cinnamon, nutmeg and grated citrus zest. Allow the dates to break down on low heat. Add more water, a few tbsps at a time, if necessary. Do not let the mixture dry up. When the dates are soft and mushy turn off the heat and allow to cool down. In a large bowl place the oats, add the vanilla and Maca powder, then add the date and carrot mixture. Mix until the consistency is even.

Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Press down the mixture and use a spoon dipped in water to press it down until it is compact. Top with chopped nuts and press down again using the wet spoon.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Leave in the fridge overnight.

The next day, remove from the loaf tin by pulling the baking paper out gently and cut into bars using a sharp knife.

Chewy granola bars with hemp seeds

2 cups oats
1 cup nuts of your choice
12 pitted dates
3 tbsp coconut oil
Vanilla
1 cup coconut
¼ cup raisins
1 tbsp hemp seeds
½ tsp cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Photo Illumina Media during alive tv show

Place the oats in a food processor and add the chopped nuts, pitted dates and the rest of the ingredients. Pulse to process, until you have a consistent but textured paste. Line a 20cm cake or pie dish with baking paper.

Bring the mixture together with your hands and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Firmly press down the mixture into the cake or pie dish. Make sure that the surface is level and that all the dish is equally covered. Wet your fingers with water and tap the surface gently all over again. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes. Remove and, after it cools down, leave in the fridge overnight. Lift it out by pulling the baking paper and place it on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut bars.

Sweet potato balls with ginger

Photo Stefan Stafrace during a live tv show

2 large sweet potatoes
3 cups coconut
5 tbsp agave
1/2 packet apricots
1/2 vanilla pod
1 cup shredded carrots
some freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ginger powder
1 pinch of mixed spice
grated zest of an orange
To cover: 2 cups coconut or coarsely ground oats

These balls can turn out to be bright yellow or a creamy colour, depending on the variety of sweet potato you are using.

Cook the sweet potato with skin on in the microwave and allow to cool. Peel and mash very well with a fork until the mixture is consistent.

Mix all the ingredients together. Use a hand blender to make a smooth paste. Leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Form balls and roll in coconut or ground oats. Leave in the fridge overnight before serving.

Fig and date Balls with aronia

Photo Stefan Stafrace during a live tv show

2 cups pitted dates
2 cups coconut
1 cup figs
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup grated citrus zest. (I used local tangerines)
1/2 cup agave
1/2 cup chopped almonds
2 tbsp aronia, liquid
1/8 cup unsweetened fruit juice of your choice
For rolling balls: 2 cups sesame seeds and 2 cups coconut in separate containers

Roughly chop the dates and figs into small pieces.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the consistency is smooth. Add water if the mixture is too dry, a tablespoon at a time.

Line two flat dishes with a baking sheet and place the sesame seeds in one container and coconut in the other container.

Use a teaspoon to form equal-sized balls and roll with your hands.

Roll the balls in the sesame seeds and coconut and store and place on a dish lined with baking paper. Leave for a few hours to set and dry out and then store in an airtight container.

 

Maca Powder and Hemp Seeds are available via Good Earth.  Aronia is available via J Calleja Import Export Ltd

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