Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

IMG_9398

Things have been a little quiet in the Sweet Precision kitchen lately. Don’t worry, I haven’t disappeared. And I actually HAVE been baking things. I’ve just been a little remiss when it comes to snapping some pictures and coming up with inspiration for a post. So instead of coming up with something witty to write about, I thought I’d just tell you how we’ve all been doing over the past month!

Life has been unexpectedly relaxing in Ann Arbor as we’ve headed into summer. Matt finished up his third year of school and is now beginning to study for his preliminary exam which he will take in August. One look at the list of books he is required to read has me thankful that my summer reading list only includes this and this. I had a quick trip to Minnesota to see a friend graduate as a Physician Assistant and to celebrate Mother’s Day. We then got to entertain when my college roomie visited Ann Arbor for a long weekend. Maya has been taking obedience classes (with limited success) and much amusement on our part. And now that it’s June, we Matt can plant the seedlings in our his garden. So that’s a run-down of what we’ve been up to over the past month!

Now onto the baking side of things…

Today, I wanted to share a no-bake recipe with you because as summer heats up, I find myself wanting to use my oven less and less. These granola bites are incredibly versatile and you can tailor them to include whatever strikes your fancy. I think they’re a great snack to keep in the refrigerator for those moments when you need a little treat. They’re like a homemade granola bar, but have the bonus of coming in a portion-controlled, bite size piece.

IMG_9394

Dark Chocolate and Date Granola Bites

Servings: 24 • Size: 1 inch balls • Calories: 106.0 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carbs: 19.0 g • Fiber: 1.0 g • Protein: 1.0 g • Sugar: 15.0 g • Sodium: 1.0 mg

Ingredients
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 cups dry old-fashioned oats
4 ounces unsalted cashews (chopped)
4 ounces mini dark chocolate chips

Directions
On a cutting board, roughly chop the cashews and set aside. Combine the dates and honey in a food processor, and pulse until smooth and combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, and stir in the oats, cashews, and dark chocolate chips until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon or cookie scoop to shape it into your desired size of energy balls. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Dates are a great alternative for sugar in certain recipes. With a subtle sweetness, they can be perfect for brownie batter or the base of homemade granola bars. Substitute two-thirds cup for one cup of regular sugar.

IMG_9408

Advertisements

Dark Chocoalte and Cherry Granola Bars

IMG_3343

Was I really a college freshman more than a decade ago?

Definitely. I came to this realization last week when I was trying to figure out why the college freshmen looked so… young. Then it hit me. I wasn’t young anymore, I was… old. At least according to the standards of the short-short wearing, midriff exposed babies walking around campus who were suspiciously eyeing my pencil skirt and cardigan combo.

It’s safe to say that I have no desire to repeat all night study sessions or share a 200 square-foot dorm room with a roommate. No thank you. But the college experience is so much more than that, and I definitely miss many of the aspects of college life. As I’ve watched the students around campus it’s brought back memories of my years in college, which is what prompted me to create a list of advice that I would give my college freshman self.

1. Less is more, when it comes to packing for your dorm room.

2. Spend more time studying than you did in high school; get to know a few professors really well; pick campus activities that matter to you and get involved; go out of your way to make friends with classmates who are quiet, may be struggling; and leave time to have fun!

3. Communal showers exist. Say goodbye to privacy until Thanksgiving break. And remember flip-flops in the bathroom. No exceptions.

4. Look for cheap textbooks online. There’s no reason you need to pay $100 plus dollars on your science textbook. The bookstore clearly does not have your best interest in mind—try looking on Amazon.

5. Learn to get along with your quirky roommate. Make a cleaning chart, set some ground rules—whatever it takes to make these next nine months bearable.

6. Whatever you do, don’t mix drinking and social media (because you’re obviously underage). On the topic of drinking, it is rampant on most campuses. Don’t be an idiot. Enjoy yourself responsibly.

7. Don’t freak out if your major is undecided. Remember everyone is lost at some point. You’ll figure it out.

8. Have fun, college is the time to make the mistakes you’ll laugh at for years to come.

9. Take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Go on adventures. Actually do the things you were excited about whenever you thought about college. If that means being an activist when no one else is, then activist away, I tell you! If it means sitting in your jammies, reading some textbooks on your porch and drinking lemonade, then get a place with the most kick-ass porch there is.

10. Most importantly, relax and BREATHE. These really will be the best four years of your life.

With respect to number nine above, it can be hard to eat healthy when you’re in college. The freshman 15 isn’t just a joke. It’s important to have healthy snacks that are close on hand, and even better yet ones you can make on your own. When my mom sent me this recipe for granola bars, it seemed like the perfect snack to have on hand. Whether you’re a college freshman, or an “old” person that just needs a snack to make it through the afternoon. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Cherry Granola Bars 

IMG_3330

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Directions
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Then lightly oil or spray with cooking spray.

Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet then bake 5 minutes, stir and bake another 3 to 5 minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves. Pour butter mixture in to bowl with toasted oats and almonds. Mix well. Let cool about 5 minutes then add cranberries and a 1/4 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Stir to combine.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan then use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Scatter remaining 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover then refrigerate at least 2 hours. Remove block of granola mixture from pan then peel away aluminum foil. Cut into 12 bars.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
This recipe is pretty forgiving so feel free to try out a mixture of nuts and dried fruits that sounds tasty to you. I was thinking that macadamia nuts with white chocolate and coconut would be a fun mixture!

IMG_3339