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The Ellen Brain Bar (DIY Energy Bars)

  If you were to rewind about 6 months ago, you'd find a very cold and nervous Ellen standing outside the front door of a coffeeshop at 6:15 on a Sunday morning in the middle of a snowstorm.  After slipping and sliding my car to the side streets to park, I remember trudging through snow-drifted sidewalks and not being able to remember where the back door to the cafe was.  It was my first day on the job.  I finally had a job, and I couldn't find the dang door.  I had to go in there and make people coffee.  I had to learn how to write all the drinks shorthand.  I had to learn how to really wrap a wrap for, like, another person.

  Soon after that I found myself making a similar trip to my baking job during the week.  For hours on end I would package what I watched the bakers make.  Dating, labeling, wrapping, cutting, general assisting.

  But today, today I can roll out of bed and go for a run at 4:30 like it's not a big deal.  I can make two lattes at the same time if both steam wands are free for my milk pitchers.  I can whip out a breakfast sandwich before the person has a chance to even finish paying for it.  I can heave pounds of dough above my head and wrestle with 50-pound bags of flour and sugar.

  But these necessary skills have not come without their setbacks.  I've dropped entire pitchers of freshly chilled iced tea.  I've had entire trays of cookies slip from my hands.  I've shattered wine glasses, plates, and cups.  I've had to develop some routine plumbing habits to deal with women and their clogged toilet tendencies.  I've had to serve some awful people with a smile on my face.  And I've had to adjust to a very early schedule most days of the week, including weekends.

  Breakfast gets difficult, especially when bakery days will burn all your energy within a few hours.  Barista-ing leaves little time for snacking on busy days as well, and often you find yourself reaching for day-old cookies to get you through the mornings.

  No more.  Calling all baristas and bakers and general high calorie burning employees: eat these.  They will stick with you for at least a couple of hours, enough to tide you over and leave you a little hungry for a nutritious lunch.   Let's do this.

  While we have some basic ingredients in these guys, the majority of it is almost entirely up to you/what you have in your pantry.  Either way, we start with our dry ingredients in a large bowl.  I went with a mixture of oats, raw mixed nuts, raisins, chopped dried apricots, unsweetened coconut, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.  I've also thrown in chia seeds, flax seed, and other healthy goodies.

  Throw all the good stuff in and give them a good tossing with a wooden spoon.

  Next I whip out my honey, natural Skippy, coconut oil, and tahini.  Into the microwave they all go.

  Cue melted honey/tahini/peanut butter action shot.

  This is when you really want to make sure that everything is really well moistened.  If not, you'll be dealing with some abnormal and unnecessary crumbles.  While the finished product is a little fall apart-y, it should still hold its general shape when you pick it up.  If you find quite a few dry pockets while mixing, throw in a little more honey and see if that helps your mass of health to adhere a little better.

  Then here comes the fun part of moistening your hands and patting this thing into something like a rectangle.  Leave about a 1/2-inch thickness, otherwise they'll be thin and crumbly and burnt.

  Notice how the edges are a little dark, but the center still quite tacky.  That's partly due to our menace of a stove.  For the most part your edges shouldn't burn as much, but your center will still look sketchily underdone to you after a measly 15 minutes of oven time.  No worries, it firms up as it cools.  And incidentally, I let this entire slab cool on the pan in the fridge overnight before I even attempt to take a knife to it.

  But once they've cooled, you've got a high protein breakfast/pre or post-workout snack/lunch/dinner/midnight snack.  They're pretty good for being sugar, dairy, and gluten free.  They'll get you through your milk-steaming and bread-baking filled days.  Or whatever else it is that real adults do at their jobs.


The Ellen Brain Bar (DIY Energy Bars)
Yield: about 24 bars

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted nuts of your choosing
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds 
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup chia/flax seeds, if desired
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins, apricots, or other dried fruit 
  • 1 1/2 cups tahini and/or peanut butter 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup honey 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 10x15 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, toss together the oats, coconut, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.  In a microwavable bowl, add the tahini/peanut butter, coconut oil, and honey.  Heat on high for about 1 minute, until melted and combined.  Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.  Pour your peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture in the large bowl, and stir to combine.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheet, and with moistened hands, pat into a rectangle about 1/2 inch-1inch high.  Dimensions will roughly be about 10x12 inches.  

Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown.  Do not overbake.  The bars might still seem tacky in the middle, but they will firm up as they cool.  If you have the time, place pan in the fridge overnight before cutting.  Store in an airtight container (I keep mine in the fridge).

Sources: loosely adapted from Popsugar