Ahhh, oatmeal. Loaded with fiber and antioxidants, hearty and filling…is there anything not to love?
Wait–don’t answer that. Try these oatmeal bars first.
What I love most about these bars is that they’re as easy to grab as a pre-packaged “energy bar” but I can add in all sorts of nutrients and feel good about what I’m feeding my kid, rather than unwrapping something that most likely has added sugar or other questionable ingredients.
This is more of a template than an actual recipe. I make these every three to four days and they always turn out different, depending what I put in.
While I still love my chai oatmeal bombs, life with an increasingly mobile toddler means that sitting down and eating something in a bowl with a spoon is something of a rarity during the day.
The basic recipe is just three ingredients, but do read on to see how it can be customized as desired.
The Basic Recipe:
15 medjool dates
Dates are loaded with tannins, iron, potassium, dietary fiber and just generally rich in micronutrients. Yay, micronutrients! Yes, they can be pricey, try the bulk foods section of Whole Foods or your health food store (or do what I do and order them in bulk here).
2 cups of non-dairy milk
The thicker milks, like hemp or soy or coconut are my favorites. But thinner milks like almond or oat work fine too.
4 1/2 cups of oatmeal flakes
The thinner the flake the better, so “quick cooking” is my favorite. Regular cut also works. I don’t recommend “thick cut” (though it will work) and steel-cut won’t work with this recipe. Again, hit up the bulk foods aisle for these.
Preheat oven to 350.
Remove the pits from the dates. Blend the dates and milk in a blender or food processor. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the oatmeal. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 pan (non-stick or greased). Press down to compress the mixture into a firm bar (the back of a spatula works well for this).
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Let cool, then cut and serve.
But wait, there’s more!
That simple recipe will give you a pretty good breakfast or snack bar, made with healthy whole foods and loaded with nutrients. It will however, be slightly (very) boring. Here are some optional ingredients to add to the humble oatmeal bar…
Vanilla-Cinnamon: Stir a tablespoon of vanilla extract and some cinnamon into the mix before baking (I usually do this.)
Cherry-Vanilla: Stir in chopped dried cherries and vanilla extract.
Ginger-Molasses: Add about one inch of peeled ginger root to the dates and milk when blending, then add 1 tbsp molasses and 1tsp ground ginger to the mixture before baking. (These are pictured above, I think this is my new favorite combo!)
Nuts: The possibilities are endless, but I haven’t tried nuts in this recipe yet due to the toddler-safety factor. if you do, let me know how they turn out!
Other fruits: I could see doing other dried fruits and nuts too for a more traditional granola bar taste/texture.
Chocolate or carob chips: I hesitate to write this because it’s the subject of much! debate! in my house, but carob chips do work quite well in this recipe. (Personally I think the bars lose some of their eat-anytime appeal with the addition of chocolate chips, as they become more solidly a dessert item. But it’s true they are quite tasty. And as a healthy dessert option they can’t be beat.)
Here’s my favorite part of these bars. The taste and texture are very forgiving. So I add things to them to raise the nutrient profile.
My favorites right now are flax seeds (rich in omega-3s) and pumpkin seeds (zinc, magnesium, and iron). I just throw about two tablespoons of each into a grinder (coffee grinder is fine, I use this) and pour the powder into the oatmeal mixture before baking. Walnuts and ground sunflower seeds would be good too.
There you have it–super-easy, delicious and loaded with nutrients!
And Zane likes them too…
If you make them, will you let me know how it goes? And if you come up with more flavors or nutrients to add I’d love to hear!