by Aaron Vinten

Ed. Note—Aaron Vinten of The Athletes Table returns with an "Energy Bar," but to call it that is to sell it short. This is the HERO bar, and it certainly lives up to its name. Read on to learn how you can be a hero and bake your own training nutrition.

If marathon superstar Shalane Flanagan can make SuperHero Muffins and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups in her RUN FAST, EAT SLOW cookbook (which I love by the way!), then the world deserves a chance to know the nutritional powerhouse of deliciousness that is the HERO Bar.  Chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein and omega-3’s.  These bars are what energy bars aspire to be.  

Delivering a massive nutritional load from raw walnuts, peanuts, Navitas chia seeds, raw ground flaxseed, Navitas Cacao Nibs, dates, raw pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.  We don't call them Hero Bars for nothing. They taste great and deliver the nutritional punch of carbs, proteins and healthy fats that athlete needs.

As with a lot of recipes here at TheAtheltesTable.com we create recipes that focus on simplicity for the athlete to make in there home kitchen, but not boring to the tastebuds.  The HERO Bar falls right in line with that.   Just add all your ingredients into a food processor, blend, press the mixture into a pan and then just let the magic of the ground chai & ground flaxseed create a dense, high protein and antioxidant loaded snack bar. 

HERO Bars are great to have in the back of the fridge for when you need something sweet or are in-between meals and need a bit of a pick-me-up.  The chocolate at the end is just a fun extra step that isn't required.  It would also be a great idea to incorporate some chocolate shavings or chips right into the mix instead. 

Lets get cooking!

STEP 1: PRINT THE RECIPE 

Print this EASY recipe card below and follow along with all the pictures! 

SERVINGS: 10

INGREDIENTS: 20-25 Madjool Dates (pitted, about 16oz container),  3/4 Cup Raw Walnuts,   3/4 Cup Peanuts (Roasted & Salted),  1 Cup Dried Shredded Coconut,  1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries,  1/2 Cup Raw Ground Chia Seeds,  1/4 Cup Raw Ground Flax Seeds,  1/2 Cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds,  1/2 Cup Raw Cacao Nibs,  5 Tbls Peanut Butter or Coconut Oil, 1 tsp Kosher Salt (Diamond Crystal)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Gather all your HERO Bar ingredients in front of.  You’ll also need a food processor, 8x8 pan and two large mixing bowls.  Using a spice grinder, grind 3/4 cup chia seeds into a fine powder.  You can also buy chia powder in most Whole Foods stores or online at navitasorganics.com.  In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients and toss together.  Toss together the bar mixture using your hands or mixing spoon.  Mix until combined and all ingredients are evenly distributed.  
  2. Working in two batches, add half the mixture to the food processor and process on HIGH until the mixture has formed into a homogenous mix with small pieces of peanuts and walnuts still visible.  Process for 30 seconds to 1 min.  Pour the processed mixture into another large mixing bowl and repeat for the second batch.  Using your hands, work the mixture to throughly and evenly combine the ingredients.  Mix & fold with your hands for roughly a minute like you would for a biscuit or pie dough.   
  3. Place the bar mixture into an 8x8 size pan and press down evenly and firmly with a spatula. Place your hand over the flat pat of the spatula to really press down hard and into the corners of the pan.  Place in the fridge for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.  Remove from the fridge and cut into candy bar size segments while still in the pan.  The HERO bars are ready to eat and should be keep in the fridge.  Temper chocolate in the microwave as directed HERE at food52.com.  Apply chocolate as desired and return to the fridge.  EAT!

STEP 2: GATHER YOUR INGREDIENTS

Gather all your ingredients in front of you and be prepared for this to be easier than you would think.  When I first started making these bars I was looking to make a completely “raw” type of energy bar.  I wasn’t seeking to create a specific flavor, but peanut butter started to play a leading roll so you know it's gonna taste good.  No complaints here!

STEP 3: GRIND THE CHIA

Using a spice grinder pour 3/4 cup of black chia seeds into the grinder and grind into a fine powder.  The recipe only requires 1/2 cup, but make a little more just incase you need it.   

Toss the ground chia into a large mixing bowl.  You can also purchase ground chia seeds in most Whole Foods stores or on line from Navitas Organics HERE!

STEP 4:  ALL IN THE BOWL

After grinding the chia, start to pull the Madjool dates apart and remove the pit with you fingers.  After you've worked though all the dates, do a double and triple check that they are all removed.  Count them if you must.  The last thing you want to do is bite down on a ice of date pit. OUCH!

Using your hands or mixing spoon, toss together all the ingredients before adding to the food processor.  This will help to process the mixture more evenly. 

STEP 5:  CHOP IT UP

Run the HERO bar mixture through the food processor in two batches depending on the size of your food processor.  Run each batch through for thirty seconds to one minute or until a chunky paste like consistency has been achieved. 

This should look a bit like a Lara Bar. However, these will have significantly more bits & pieces of nuts, pumpkin seeds and raw cacao nibs.

Now its time to get our hands into the mix, literally. 

Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl.  You will see areas that haven’t quite been chopped up well. That’s totally fine, but you want to make sure that these areas are well incorporated into the rest of the bar mixture.  Pour the mixture into another large mixing bowl and work it with your hands like you would a biscuit or pie dough.

STEP 6:  TIME TO CHILL OUT

Now that the mixture has been ground and mixed up by hand, pour the bar mixture into and 8X8 pan.  Any size pan will work, but an 8X8 pan just seems to work out well to create the perfect bar size.

Using a spatula, firmly press down on the mixture to compact the bar mixture down in the pan and into all the corners.  Put your hand on top of the flat part of the spatula and really push down with your weight.  Place the bars into the refrigerator for up to 5 hours or preferably overnight.  They need time for the magic of the chia and flaxseed to bind the bars together.

STEP 7: CUT'EM UP

Remove the bars from the fridge and use your finger to give it a good push test.  They should be pretty hard.

Using a sharp knife, trace out your bar cut lines on the very top and then cut.  Go slowly & steady. The bars should be pretty hard at this point, but they can still fall apart if you are too rough.  At this point, you can stash them in the fridge for the next time you are ready to reach in and grab one. That's what I do, but there is another step that you can add to push these to another level. CHOCOLATE!

STEP 8: CHOCOLATE TIME!

Yeah! Chocolate makes everything better, right?!  Melting chocolate can be easier than you think by melting (aka tempering) the chocolate in the microwave.  Follow the link HERE from Food52.com to a great tutorial on how to do it.

Place your sliced bars into the melted chocolate to cover the bottom in a light layer.  Move quickly as the chocolate will quickly cool and harden back up.  Repeat as necessary.  Using a spoon, take some of the chocolate and drizzle it over the top.  Return the HERO Bars to the fridge to harden. 

STEP 9: EAT!

HERO Bars are loaded with healthy vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3’s and protein, you will think that you just hit the candy jackpot.  And in a way, you have.  HERO Bars are great to have stuck in the back of the fridge for when you need something a bit sweet or are in-between meals and need a bit of a pick-me-up.  Full of dates, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, raw cacao nibs and coconut they are sweet, decadent and outrageously delicious.  You’ll be making these again and again.