Dates, almond butter, maple syrup, oats and almonds are the base for these delicious gluten-free granola bars. They can then be flavored with any number of ingredients — from cranberries, figs and chocolate to a pinch or two of fleur de sel — for that salty/sweet combination.
*Note: If the dates do not feel quite moist and sticky, soak them for approximately 10 minutes in hot water to soften. Drain before using.
**Depending on how sweet you like your food, you may want to half or adjust the amount of sweetener used.
If you want to make this recipe gluten-free, be sure to buy gluten-free oats. Also note that the oats can be used raw or, if desired, toasted slightly. To toast, place them in a baking pan in a preheated 350°F oven and toast for 10 to 15 minutes or just until they turn a light golden brown.
Feel free to adjust the amounts of chocolate, cranberries and figs and/or substitute them with any other ingredient that you may prefer. A few other ideas would be cacao nibs, hemp seeds or pistachio nuts, but the options are endless.
You can use another quality of salt, but do not use table salt as it will not lend the same delicate salt flavor that fleur de sel will add.
Place the dates in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until only small bits remain. They should have a dough-like consistency when done.
Place the dates, liquid sweetener and almond butter in a medium bowl, stirring to blend. Add the rolled oats and almonds, mixing well to combine. When blended, add the chocolate, cranberries, figs and salt, mixing vigorously to blend completely.
Line an 8- x 8-inch baking dish or a casserole with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and use your fingers to press it down to make an even layer. You may find this easier to do if your hands are just slightly wet.
Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for at least 15 minutes to harden. Once the mixture is very firm to the touch, remove it from the dish and cut into serving-sized portions. Store, airtight, at room temperature or wrap the pieces, individually in plastic wrap, and store, frozen.
These granola bars are a great snack on the run or if you are going for an extended workout, such as a long bike ride.
For a granola bar with a bit more of a crunch, either dehydrate or bake the granola mixture in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing.