You know that point in the middle of the afternoon when lunch is three hours behind you and dinner is at least three hours ahead?
That's the abyss of snacking for me. Yeah. That's the hour when I hunch in my office chair, my body curved like a question mark over my keyboard, and slowly lose my concentration.
It's a gradual slide into mental torpor. Then comes the crankiness.
Usually, around this time, a package of crackers finds its way into my hands. And sometimes, nay, often, particularly when I am stressed out at work, I reach for a candy bar. Or for a handful of cookies. The ones with the fudge stripes and the friendly, plump elves on the bag.
Office grazing: it's pre-packaged, calorie-laden, preservative-packed fake snacking. No one respects herself after a hasty encounter with a Nabisco product, but so many of us sit right outside the office kitchenette of temptation, with its vending machine glow and its cheap promises of quick and easy blood sugar.
A few months ago, I took a stand. I refuse, refuse, to continue snacking this way. I decided to make my own snacks, the kind that taste rich and contain ingredients I can identify. Mercifully, it was around this time that I discovered Ellie Krieger's energy bar recipe.
In her recent cookbook, The Food You Crave, Ellie writes, "I find most energy bars either unbearably sweet or like leaden masses of mortar. Besides, so many are filled with bizarre ingredients." Oh, thank you. This is the very reason that I prefer to make my own. That, and the fact that your average Powerbar sets you back two bucks. That's two bucks that could be better applied to an afternoon coffee.
Ellie Krieger's Energy Bars
Adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave, available at Amazon.com.
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup shelled unsalted raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/4 cup whole-grain pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries (not included in Ellie's recipe, but adds a tart kick that I love)
1/2 cup pitted dried dates
1/2 nonfat dry milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Place all the ingredients, except the maple syrup and eggs, in a food processor and pulse until everything is finely chopped. Add the syrup and eggs and pulse until the mixture is well combined. It will resemble a coarse paste.
Transfer to the baking pan and spread evenly to cover the bottom. Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then cut into 24 bars.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months. I wrap them individually in parchment or plastic wrap and put them into a freezer bag. In the mornings before work, I'll grab one, toss it in my bag, and take it to work. It thaws out in time to save me from myself in the afternoon.