Nutty Fruit Bars

Guys, I am training for a marathon again!! I did so about one year ago, but had to cancel the whole adventure after 8 or 10 weeks of training. This time, I am training for the Dubai marathon in January 2011. I will have my sister from Germany over to watch me running my first ever marathon. That should be reason and motivation enough to pull me through. I've got two goals: I want to finish and I don't want to finish last.

I've got some running experience. I have finished a few half marathons and many 10k races in quite reasonable times. I feel confident that I can do it. Apart from the actual running training, the nutrition side during the training period is also quite important. That concerns my diet in general, but also the foods that I eat before, during and after long runs.

Everyone's stomach reacts differently on the strains of a long run. I have to find out what works for me. I prefer to do 10k races on an empty stomach, Half Marathon with one banana before the race. Now 42k is a different league. I believe that simple and natural foods, with some fast available sugars and some long-lasting energy will work best. Like granola or energy bars. They work perfectly before AND after a long run.

This nutty fruit bar is a grain-free and gluten-free energy bar. I have been playing around with the ingredients and like the ones listed below the most. However, the most important ingredient is the dates as they provide the fundamental sweetness and stickiness to hold everything together. The nuts can be exchanged, the seeds could be omitted. Any dried fruit can be thrown in.

They certainly satisfy any sugar craving. Therefore, they fit the bill for a healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack (even if you do not train for a marathon). I guess the size is what matters here. I guess I don't need to mention that mine are rather large. The marathon training is a good excuse for their largeness.

(Print Recipe)

1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup dried dates, pitted and roughly chopped

1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dried figs, roughly chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds 
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

Yields 8-10
Preheat oven to 150C (300F). Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour fruit juice over dates and let soak for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place nuts, apricots, and figs in a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. Add dates with orange juice and pulse until mixture starts to stick together. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add cranberries, coconut and seeds, kneading the batter until all is well incorporated.

Use the prepared baking sheet as surface and fill large cookie cutters with the batter. Gently remove the cutter to keep the bars in shape. Repeat until all batter is used up.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Using a heatproof spatula, gently turn bars over and bake another 10-12 minutes, or until nuts are toasted (but before fruit begins to burn). Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

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