There wasn’t a lot that caught me off guard when I became a vegetarian. I had done my research. I read up on plant-based protein sources. I even started looking up balanced vegetarian recipes long before I ditched meat. But, there were some things I was not expecting – like how much I would miss chicken fingers, or how surprised people are when they find out I don’t eat meat (“You mean, like, never?”). Perhaps, what surprised me the most is that now I get hungry every two hours. Literally, every two hours. Apparently, this is quite a common experience among vegetarians. It doesn’t even really matter what you eat. Of course, a protein and nutrient dense meal or snack keeps you satisfied longer than a bowl of lettuce, but plant-based foods simply don’t have the “staying power” that a hunk of steak does. At first, I didn’t mind this eat-every-two-hours rhythm. I planned healthy snacks and made sure to include lots of protein in my meals. Problem solved.
Then, I became a teacher.
Unfortunately for me, teaching is not really conducive to constant eating – just imagine your high school Math teacher crunching carrots and hummus while trying to teach you the finer details of algebra. Not exactly professional. The obvious solution to my snacking problem was granola bars. They are compact, essentially indestructible, and can be eaten in about 30 seconds. The latter of which is essential when you need to down something between the time Keen Student #1 finishes asking you a question and Always-on-Time Student #2 arrives for class. The problem is that store-bought granola bars are not exactly nutrient dense and most home-made granola bars recipes rely heavily on nut and nut butters (nuts + kids = NOT good). So, I started investigating alternative, allergen-free granola bar recipes. Because I often have other grains in my lunch, I wanted a granola bar that was also grain-free. Unfortunately for me, there are not many of those recipes floating around. So, I decided to make my own.
I researched different ways to make granola bars and took elements from many different recipes. Finally, I landed on a delicious granola bar recipe with a seed, date, and egg base. The resulting granola bars may not look like much, but trust me, they are delicious. The dates give these granola bars a sweet caramel undertone while the seeds provide crunch and longevity. Now, I can make it to the end my teaching day with only the occasional (hunger-induced) rant.
Tricks of the Trade
When I need to blend something for a recipe, I almost always use my single-serve blender. Why? Because I can’t stand cleaning my full-sized blender or food processor. I mean, why do those things have to have so many parts?
School-Safe Granola Bars
These protein-packed granola bars are nut-free, grain-free, and dairy-free. They are sweet, filling, healthy and completely safe for nut-free schools.
For Seed Flour
- 1/4 cup hemp hearts (seeds)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp flax seeds
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 3 tbsp water for making date paste
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg or flax seed egg
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon optional
- 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds aka pepitas
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut or hemp seeds
- 1/8-1/4 cup chocolate chips to taste
Cover dates with warm water and let soak.
Preheat oven to 350F and line a 9 x 13 rectangular baking dish with parchment paper
Throw all the seed flour ingredients (hemp, sunflower, chia, flax) in a blender and pulse until you get a fine flour-like consistency (about 5 times). The flour may begin to clump close to the blades. This is fine, but you should not continue to blend as doing so will result in you getting seed butter! Empty the seed flour into a small bowl.
Drain the dates. Place dates in blender and cover half with water (about 3 tbsp). Blend into a smooth paste. You may need to use a spatula to scrape the dates off the sides of the blender.
In a large bowl, combine date paste, vanilla, egg, salt, and chiptole/cinnamon (if using). Mix with a spatula until egg is completely incorporated.
Add seed flour to date paste mixture. Stir until combined.
Mix in add-ins (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, chocolate chips) until well and evenly incorporated.
Dump mixture into glass baking dish and spread with spatula. Make sure that the mixture is spread to roughly the same thickness everywhere on the dish.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges are brown.
Let cool in dish and cut into granola bars. Store in fridge for up to a week or freezer for up to a month (though I doubt they will last that long!).
Depending on the type of blender you use, you may need more or less water for making date paste. In my single-serve blender, 3 tbsp of water comes halfway up the dates. This is a good rule-of-thumb.
DATE-FREE OPTION: substitute dates for 2/3 cup of molasses.
VEGAN OPTION: use a flax seed egg instead of a regular egg.
**Please note: While many people with nut allergies can tolerate coconut, coconut should be avoided if you will be in contact with children with severe nut allergies. So, substitute the coconut with hemp seeds.**