Cranberry-Almond Power Bars

June 2013 081Energy bars are my most recent culinary obsession. In the months leading up to an Ironman, I need good training and on-the-go fuel options, and this year I’m trying as much as possible to avoid expensive, processed sports foods. I’ve been experimenting with many different recipes. This week, I tried a recipe from Heidi Swanson of the popular food blog, 101 Cookbooks via Food & Wine. I swapped the almonds in for walnuts, but left the recipe otherwise unchanged. I love the subtle gingery taste in these bars, and the fact that only natural sweeteners are used. The best part about making energy bars is that you can make them your own—swapping in nuts, fruits, sweeteners, and grains of your choice. As long as you follow the general proportions in the recipe, they’ll be great!

Cranberry-Almond Power Bars (barely adapted from Heidi Swanson via Food & Wine; makes 16 bars)

1 1/4 cups almonds (I used a mixture of whole and sliced)
1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup oat bran
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly spray an 8-by-11-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden, about 9 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Transfer the almonds to a large bowl. Add the puffed rice, rolled oats, cranberries, oat bran and ginger and toss well.

In a small saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, cane sugar and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the syrup into the rice-oat mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer the warm mixture to the prepared baking dish and pack lightly with a spatula greased with cooking spray (I used a piece of waxed paper greased with cooking spray to press firmly and evenly into the edges and corners and smooth the top). Let cool for at least 45 minutes before cutting into 16 bars.

The cranberry-walnut bars can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper and kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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