High Nutrition/Low Bullshit: Making Your Own Energy Bars

Leave work late, since you are feeling somewhat scattered and overwhelmed and there’s something magically productive about those last handful of minutes when you put them in past five. Ride to Trader Joe’s with your guy, and stagger around the store, confused, picking up things that seem like they will get you through the possibly-insane many mile, many feet elevation gain backpacking weekend you are apparently doing starting tomorrow (and for which you have done zero preparation, packing or training).

Grab two packs of “Seaweed Snack”, various nuts and fruits, an entire glass jar of apple juice, and, because you have to choose your battles and it’s 6:15 p.m. and you’re surrounded by an increasingly frightening number of men in button-down floral print shirts and stressed out mothers/screaming babies, a grass-fed steak from New Zealand.

Load food on bikes, ride home. Bitch about hills.

Get home. Unload food from bikes. Start doing dishes. Make granola. Realize you need energy bars, and choose to emulate this recipe your sister sent you. Send your guy off to the store for lemons and dates. He comes back. Try making date paste. Realize that these dates don’t paste. Soak dates elegantly in a plastic container, shaking the shit out of them on occasion in an attempt to rehydrate them.

Make dinner (tuna steak, CSA chard and greens from the yard, rice). Take granola out of oven. Re-shake dates. Eat dinner. Ponder why you are listening to semi-okay electronic music. Remind yourself of the “choose your battles”/”can’t win ’em all” mantra. Finish your wine.

Return to date-water pile. Determine they may be paste-able. Nearly kill your food processor ($5, 2006, Lansing secondhand store) while pulsing dates, adding almond meal, honey. Determine this is sort of like date paste and almond butter. Add said paste to bowl containing a cup-ish each of all of the nuts you had in the house (pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans) plus some walnuts, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, and all the shredded coconut you can find. Add spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves which you have to crush by hand because you were too cheap to buy them ground you idiot, black pepper) and maple syrup. Hold your ground on the “no, we are not putting coriander into my hiking food” front. Mash into 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper. Bake until your guy needs the oven for the cake he’s making out of today’s offering from the suddenly-exploding zucchini plant.

Cool bars on oven. Take picture, send to sister. Take sample, decide these are not at all what the original recipe said they were supposed to be, but remembering that you didn’t use arrowroot or puffed rice or the right kind of dates or … decide that it’s maybe okay.

Goat Mountain Trip Panforte Bars


  • 5 cups assorted nuts/seeds, toasted (by you or by them)
  • 10 dates, pasted (or date paste of imagined same volume)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons liquid sugar (maple syrup / honey / molasses / brown rice syrup)
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (almond, peanut, etc)
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit
  • coconut to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • spices to taste (cinnamon, cloves, garam masala, cardamom, pepper, etc)


Combine all. Press (mash) into lined (or greased) baking dish of sufficient volume. Bake at low temp until solidified. Let cool, slice, wrap in wax paper, take backpacking.

Somewhere, there are culinary sprites who flit around kitchens and joyously compose dishes dusted with sea salt and topped with shaved fennel. Meanwhile, in actual kitchens, there are humans who make good food while being fully occupied with the business of being normal people. Welcome to High Nutrition, Low Bullshit – where we still make locally-sourced pesto, tasty kale dishes, and damn fine vegan pies – but minus the illusions and glamour.

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