Sometimes, what seem to be the simplest things are the most elusive. Sleep, for example. It’s a basic human function. People do it on the subway, standing up. My cats do it for 20 hours a day. My brother can pretty much do it on cue. It shouldn’t require skill, or thought, or effort. It’s natural. It’s necessary. It’s lovely.
But sometimes, no matter how much you want to, you can’t. It escapes you. And when that happens, it feels like this intensely arduous, impossibly elaborate task. You try to somehow will your body to cooperate and just pass out. You try to count things — sheep, stars, ticks of the clock, anything. You try to clear your mind, only to incessantly think about how its impossible to not think about anything. It’s awful. It feels preposterous. It’s exhausting.
Now, I realize that this might give away my nerdy English major background (we bookworms just love a good analogy), but bear with me. It was during just such a sleepless night recently that my mind wandered to food (…although I should clarify that when my mind wanders, 9 times out of 10, that’s where it goes). I realized that the same can be said of most foods — sometimes, they’re elusive. It’s been said that great chefs can be defined by the egg, one of the most elemental, pervasive ingredients out there. Cooking a simple egg, and doing it right, is a formidable task. Or buttercream. Making the perfect buttercream is probably something I’ll spend the rest of my life aspiring to do — but probably never quite achieve.
And in a weird way, that’s what makes me love food so damn much. It’s simple, and fundamental, and yet it keeps you on your toes. One food can have ten thousand variations. I love that.
And now I need to try to distill this philosophical digression into something about health bars. And really that’s not that hard to do. They’re everywhere these days — protein bars, energy bars, granola bars — and I can’t stand about 98% of them. Don’t give me chocolate, or candy pieces, or bits of processed meal covered in corn syrup and weird gums and chemicals. I’m looking for something healthy. And wholesome. And simple. And filled with good-for-you stuff.
I call these delicious squares of healthy goodness moxie bars because a) the word moxie is pretty awesome, and b) they’re full of great ingredients with simple, wholesome energy. They’re primarily made up of toasty nuts — almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts, three of my favorites. I love the addition of chia seeds — which are slowly becoming one of my new favorite ingredients — and the natural touch of sweetness from the banana and honey is the perfect balance. Plus, the fact that there aren’t any complex carbs or refined sugar makes me do a happy dance. These were literally gone in a day — and I only kind of wish I was kidding, because when something is this delicious and healthy, who cares?
1 cup sliced almonds, divided
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sesame oil (or melted coconut oil)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup whole or sliced almonds (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a medium sized baking dish or pan with cooking spray or parchment paper.
In a small pan, toast the almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts over low heat, keeping a close on them so they don’t burn. Place nuts in food processor and pulse a few times until they’re are coarsely ground. Pour into a separate bowl and set aside.
Add honey, banana, chia seeds, protein powder, vanilla, and sesame oil to food processor and mix until smooth and creamy. Fold into nut mixture and press into baking dish.
Sprinkle top with whole almonds and dried cranberries and lightly press into mixture.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until firm and slightly golden.