Wednesday, March 30

Banana Nut Energy Bars

Spring brings an increase in outdoor activity for all kinds of animals—even the two-legged variety. Of course, a lot of us love getting outside all winter long for snowshoeing and skiing, but the clear roads, warmer temperatures and longer days of the new season make it even easier to get outside and to stay out for longer stretches.

For many sports enthusiasts, it also marks the start of the training season to get ready for early-summer races and events. Road running, trail running, cycling, swimming and paddling are all popular around here in terms of both casual sports and competitive sporting events. Band on the Run, Spin the Lakes, the Limberlost Challenge, Muskoka River X, and Muskoka Ironman 70.3 are just some of the organized sports events in the area. Between races, the region has become a training destination thanks to our fresh air, challenging hills and variety of terrain.

Since the snow has started to clear out, Jim and I have swopped our snowshoes for running shoes and have been hitting the roads and parks in preparation for some running races (and in Jim's case a triathlon) in the coming months.

A big part of training includes fuelling for the increased activity level. There are all sorts of commercial energy bars out there for portable, accessible fuel but one look at the ingredient list can make them lose some appeal. If you'd rather know what you're putting in your body, it's easy to make your own energy bars at home. We like these Banana Nut Energy Bars for a quick boost before a run or to replenish our reserves afterwards.

Banana Nut Energy Bars

These bars are moist, dense and hold together well. Feel free to replace the almonds and walnuts with other nuts or seeds, or to swop out the dried cherries for dried cranberries, raisins or other dried fruit.
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, divided
  • 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pitted dried dates
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 medium-size very ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9” square pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang.

In a food processor, whirl 1/2 cup oats until fine. Add remaining oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, apricots and dates. Pulse until apricots and dates are diced into pieces no larger than a chickpea.

Transfer mixture from food processor into a large mixing bowl. To mixture, add almonds, walnuts, dried cherries, salt and cinnamon. Stir to combine.

In the same food processor, whirl banana, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Pour over mixture in bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.

Press into prepared pan. Bake until firm and lightly golden, about 20-25 minutes. Cool in pan then slice into bars or squares. Makes 18 bars, more or less, depending on how you slice it.

Fuel up and get active!