Date and Cranberry Energy Bars

I have never been able to fathom why so many cyclist eat branded energy bars. I love to ride my bike, and I love to eat but the thought of sating my pedaling-induced appetite on a jaw-aching, over-priced piece of flavored Plastecine is not my idea of a satisfying reward after hours in the saddle. 

As a keen cycle tourist I totally understand the need for quick and portable energy on a long ride, but having toured in countries where getting hold of clean glass of water is difficult let alone a silver-wrapped energy bar, I have learnt through necessity that there are plenty of natural options out there that provide a tasty and oomph-packed solutions to powering a hungry cyclist when the legs start to tire. 

Late last year I was lucky enough to take my bicycle for a five-week tour of Egypt and Israel and crossing the Sinai desert is tough riding. The sun is hot, shade is minimal and the Biblical landscape of arid mountains and parched valleys are unforgiving. Traveling in this hostile environment I took my survival tips from the local Bedouin, desert nomads who have roamed the Sinai for millennia and who are completely at home in the desert.

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Wrapped in their gal Abaya, and head scarves these survival experst may look like Hollywood terrorists but everything they wear and eat has its purpose. While staying in their tented desert camps I was invariable sent away in the morning with a small bag of dates. Energy-packed pockets of sweet energy that grow in abundant bunches on the palms that fill the Wadis (oasis) that collect what little rainfall there is in this parched corner of the world.
Sadly until my trip to The Holy Land any previous contact with this small, desert fruit was limited to the dusty capsule-shaped box, decorated with camels, palm trees and lurid sunsets, that were unearthed from a dark cupboard every Christmas. 

My father always picked out one or two of these curious brown fruits neatly packed in shiny rows like the eggs of some giant insect, but I never touched the things. And was only too happy to see them disappear back into the cupboard with the neglected cracker toys until next year.
But sweet, fibrous and packed with sugary energy, while cycling in Israel and Egypt I fell in love with dates and loaded up with kilos of this wonderful fruit which I discovered was the perfect desert cycling food. Whether they were given as gifts, picked up from the desert sand or purchased from the local shouk (market), bag of dates always hung from my handlebars, allowing my route through the Sinai to be easily tracked, like Hansel and Gretel through the forest, by a reliable trail of stones spat by the road side. 

This Christmas, for the first time, the box of dates didn’t go back into the cupboard but came home with me and I started cooking and experimenting. Here is a recipe for some tasty, natural and cheap energy bars that not only taste great but are cheap, natural and healthy. If you don’t have a box of dates lurking in a cupboard at home they can be picked up in most supermarkets, health stores and almost any Middle Eastern market. 

(makes 15 bars)

  • 1 cup of chopped dates (stones removed)
  • 1 cup of walnuts (soaked for 8 hours) 
  • 1 cups of plain almonds 
  • 3 tablespoons of golden syrup or natural honey 
  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup of raisins 
  • 1 cup of dried cranberries (can be replaced with sultanas to keep the cost down) 
  • The zest of one lemon 
  • A little extra coconut for dusting on top the energy bars if you feel creative. 

1. Pour the almonds and walnuts into food processor and grind into a rough powder. 

2. Add all the other ingredients and process into a sticky dough like consistency. 

3. Press the dough into a rectangular shallow baking dish and sprinkle the top any remaining coconut. 

4. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before cutting into bars. 

5. Wrap in grease proof paper, slip into your pocket and hit the road. The next time you are feeling a little short on energy and the legs need a boost instead of going for a tasteless energy bar grab a date bar. Happy trails.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, January 1st, 2009 at 22:09 and is filed under English Recipes, Recipes, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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