I’m not a cookbook fiend. I own a few, sure, but my collection pales in comparison to most food bloggers and people who cook on a regular basis. It’s weird, because I have enough other books to open a small library, but I’ve never been a big cookbook collector. That said, every once in a while, one comes out that you just can’t wait to get your hot little hands on and for me, it was The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I preordered that baby early on and was so excited when it arrived. Deb’s blog was the first food blog I followed, some 6+ years ago. I’m still a regular reader and have had a lot of success with the recipes she’s posted.
The first night I got this book, I made my way through the breakfast section and the vegetarian main dish section, and I had already mentally bookmaked at least a dozen things. These almond-date bars went to the top of the list because I adore anything almond flavored and while I have a fruit/nut/oat bar recipe I already really love, I wanted to try something different.
These bars are hearty, tasty, and pretty darn good for you. Unlike a lot of granola bar recipes that have a ton of butter, sugar, or oil, these have no butter, use honey as sweetener, and use heart-healthy olive oil. So you can feel pretty good about eating them.
Zachary had a great time helping me make these. They’re pretty much a perfect recipe for toddler assistance, because there’s a lot of dumping ingredients together and stirring, which are Zachary’s favorite things to do. Of course, you also have to be prepared for a few missing dates and peeling the orange you’re zesting, so it can be eaten by said toddler.
These come together easily and quickly. Mine crumbled a bit when I went to cut them (partly because I was impatient), but they were much firmer after some time in the fridge, so if you want to make nice squares, I would chill them in the fridge for a bit and cut them cold.
The recipe below is the one in the cookbook, but I did double it and make it in a 9×13 pan. These keep really well, so there’s no reason not to make a double batch!
Almond Date Breakfast Bars
Barely adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
1 cup chopped dried pitted dates
1.25 cups rolled oats
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
1/4 tsp. almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8×8 baking dish in one direction with parchment paper, allowing the paper to go up the opposing side. Repeat in the opposite direction (this makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan in one piece).
In a large bowl, stir together the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ, almonds, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond extract until smooth. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, stirring together until the dry ingredients are evenly coated. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, pressing the mixture firmly into the bottom, edges, and corners.
Bake the bars for 20-25 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges. They’ll still seem a bit soft if you press the center (they will set as they cool).
Place the pan over a cooling rack, or in the fridge. If cooling at room temp, you can remove the bars from the pan after about 20-30 minutes, using the pachment “sling” and set them on the rack to cool completely. Once completley cooled, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. (If the bars seem too crumbly to cut, chill them further in the fridge, and then cut them cold.)
Bars can be stored in an airtight container, in the fridge, or frozen.