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Whether these bars serve as a breakfast, snack, dessert or training fuel, they are so tasty you will want to hide them so they last. They’re also a great way to use up leftover ingredients from holiday cooking. Keep in mind there are quite a few steps to making these, but you will find after you make them once the recipe gets easier. The reward is a healthy, homemade bar!
2 cups oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup pumpkin purée
7-8 oz almond butter (1/2 a regular sized jar)
1/3 cup agave
1/3 cup brown sugar (or brown rice syrup)
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberry
1/2 cups dates, finely chopped (pits removed)
1. Heat the fresh and dry cranberries with the dates and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Let cook for about 15 minutes until the fresh cranberries start to pop and soften and the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest.
3. In a medium bowl combine the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice. Toss the nuts in the dry ingredients.
4. Spoon the coconut oil into a microwave safe bowl and melt 30-45 seconds. Reserve.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, almond butter, agave, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Whisk in the coconut oil until the ingredients are smoothly combined.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently mix together with a large wooden spoon.
7. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9×13 in baking dish with parchment paper. The paper should cover the bottom and the edges but it won’t stick onto the pan until you add the batter. If you don’t have parchment paper, line the bottom and sides of the pan with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
8. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Continuously wetting the spoon helps to prevent the batter from sticking so it can be spread evenly.
9. Spoon the cranberry date mixture over the batter. Top the cranberry mixture with the other half of the batter.
10. Let bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in pan for one hour to cool. The bars may not look done when you remove them from the oven, but they will finish baking in the hot pan.
11. Transfer pan to fridge and let cool completely. This step will make the bars easier to cut. After the bars have cooled, simply lift them out of the pan by the parchment paper or foil and set on a cutting board.
12. Cut into 24 bars. Wrap in foil and keep in the fridge.
Tip: keep bars in the freezer if you intend to put them in your riding jersey pocket. They will be perfect when it’s time to fuel.
Jessica Cerra is the owner of Fit Food by Jess, a private chef and catering company in Encinitas, Calif. She is also a professional Xterra triathlete and mountain biker. Follow Jess’ recipes on her “Fit Food by Jess” Facebook page.