Forget those packaged energy bars …

I’d be remiss if I didn’t start this post by thanking everyone who commented on my downer of an entry on Friday. You are all my new best friends. It takes me a ridiculously long time to retrench when things don’t go as planned, and I tend to get pessimistic and depressed as I try to sort it all out. (It’s part of my charm.) I am feeling so much better since reading your words: We can make changes from the bottom up! We can vote with our money! Personal stewardship is personal! By working together as a “hive,” we can make some serious inroads! People everywhere are making a difference!

Assembling the ingredients. That's a oft-reused plastic bag of dried pears, by the way.

Assembling the ingredients. That’s an oft-reused plastic bag of dried pears, by the way, I haven’t lost my mind or anything.

I wish I could take you all out for coffee to thank you. Instead I’ll just send a virtual hug.

Moving right along …

I’ve never been one to toss those individual, packaged energy bars into the grocery cart … but I will admit to having to break a granola bar habit, both for myself and the girls, since the project started. A few packages have snuck into the house, a la grandma (hey there, Mom!), but at least we are at the point where we can cruise by our favorite granola bars at the store and not be tempted.

Yadda yadda yadda, a month or so ago, I was taking a bit of a coffee break at work, getting my mug filled with my standard Americano with room, when I spotted some unwrapped “energy bars” behind the counter. I wasn’t prepared for a snack, but this place uses paper for to-go items, so I decided that was at least kind of acceptable and bought one.

And it was delicious. And surprisingly filling. I shared part of it with a co-worker (who is quite the foodie — although he is just as apt to go to McDonalds as he is to prepare some kind of gourmet feast, which I find hilarious and rather of refreshing), and we were like, you could totally make one of these, how hard could it be? Which is what started my quest for a perfect energy/granola bar recipe.

Dried dates, apricots, pears, coconut and oats all whirled around together.

Dried dates, apricots, pears, coconut and oats all whirled around together.

We could really go off into the weeds on this, and I think we already have (oops), so let’s just cut to the chase: I mentioned that quest on the blog and our friend Jeanne (hi, Jeanne!) PMed me the recipe she uses: 1 cup nuts, 1 cup dried dates, 1 cup dried apples or cherries, all whirled around in a food processor until it comes together — adding water if necessary. She also said that it’s pretty forgiving, so I could add oats, seeds, etc. and it would all work out.

I LOVE a forgiving recipe.

And thus began my weekly energy bar experiments. Every Sunday, I make a new batch. I was measuring carefully at the start, but now I just toss stuff in and hope for the best. And it generally works out. I’ve had some pretty dry ones, I’ve had some sticky ones, but they always get devoured. Sometimes I have to hide it because I take it to work for breakfast every single day (I am not one of those people who can eat right after waking up) and it’s likely to be gone before Tuesday. The fam even likes to eat it for dessert if treats are low on the ground. But my favorite thing about it is that it’s packed with protein, totally natural and preservative-free, COMPLETELY ZERO WASTE (at least for me), and it’s saved Johanna’s life more than once. (That kid is constantly growing and therefore constantly eating. That is not an exaggeration.)

The Trisha Way:

I like to use peanut butter from the nut butter machine at the store in place of the nuts. Dried dates are easy enough to find, and I’ve usually got a stash of dried apples or pears — Abby likes those in her lunch in place of chips, so I try to keep us stocked. Sometimes I use dried apricots instead of apples, and I like to toss in a couple handfuls of oats, some pumpkin seeds and/or dried cranberries or coconut just for kicks. It kind of just depends on what’s in the pantry.

... Looking a little more bar-esque with the addition of peanut butter and apple butter.

… Looking a little more bar-esque with the addition of peanut butter and apple butter.

I’ve also added sesame seeds (left over from another project), chocolate chips (kind of overkill, really, only did that once), and other nuts — sometimes swirled around in the food processor (although mine is old and can get pretty gummed up if I put too much in there at once), sometimes just mixed in later. I’ve also discovered that adding some pear or apple butter to the mix helps it stick together better — but it doesn’t take much. (It started as a way to use up the pear butter that no one was eating — they like the apple butter better — and ended up being genius.)

So! I would suggest using Jeanne’s directions as a starting point, going through your own bulk aisle and seeing what is available. As long as you keep the “1 nut, 2 dried fruit” rule in mind, it’s probably going to work out just fine. And then add bits and pieces to correspond with what you like in a granola or energy bar. And then tell me how it works out and what you add. (On any post, really, I’ll find it. Staying on topic in the comments isn’t something that worries me.)

… And that’s one more packaged item that bites the dust.

Next up: I’m zero waste-ing a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes. (We celebrate that particular holiday Nov. 24 this year. Anyone else plugging their ears when the Black Friday sales ads come on the radio or TV?)