I am typically wary of any products specifically marketed as “kids food” as they are often loaded with sugar, sodium, preservatives, artificial color and flavors, and all other sorts of gobbledy-gook. Adding insult to injury, the packaging is excessive and replete with an slick advertising overkill.
But exceptions exist, like Annie’s (full disclosure: (a) my brother works for Annie’s, and (b) I have probably eaten more cheddar bunny cracker than my son and two nephews combined). I also like Zbars, which are made by Clifbar; they feature whole grains, organic ingredients, and are sweetened mostly with dried fruit (figs). The fact that both companies are in Berkeley, and literally located blocks from where I grew up, probably makes me prejudiced to the products of both companies, too. Might as well lay it all out on the table.
Nevertheless, because I am who I am, I decided to make my own from-scratch version of Zbars.
Nick rarely finishes an entire bar, so I made cookies instead; one cookie is just the right size for a treat or snack. I am a fan of crispy edges, too, and you get more of them in cookie form.
I think I’ve nailed it with both the taste and texture. I sweetened the cookies with dates alone, so they are only mildly sweet. The texture is soft, but with those crispy bits at the edges I mentioned. I cannot think of any reason why these should be limited to children; one is perfect for a blood sugar boost right around 4 o’clock (that’s my wilting hour) without the sugar jitters that accompany regular cookies or some energy bars.
I made this batch with a smattering of chocolate chips, but you can add dried fruit, nuts, seeds…you get the idea. Heads up: almond butter with a bit of almond extract in place of the vanilla is a smashing variation. Enjoy tweaking!
- 1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking)--GF if needed
- 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 (semi-packed) cup whole, pitted dates
- ½ cup natural, unsweetened nut or seed butter of choice
- ½ cup plain nondairy or dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional: ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips or chopped dried fruit
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silpat, or lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a food processor, process the oats to a fine powder. Add the flaxseed meal and baking soda; pulse to combine.
- Add the dates to the processor bowl; process until the dates are very finely chopped. Add the nut butter, milk and vanilla; pulse, using on/off pulses, until well-blended. If adding chocolate chips or fruit, transfer dough to medium bowl and stir in one of the options.
- Scoop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Dip the tines of fork in water and gently flatten each cookie.
- Bake for 10-11 minutes in the preheated oven until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute on sheets, then transfer to wire rack with spatula and cool completely.
No Flaxseed? No problem: If you do not have flaxseed meal, you can use an equal amount of additional rolled oats, or or wheat germ, chia seeds, or...just about anything you like!
Even Better after a Day: If you can hold out, wait a day before eating (all/some of) the cookies. Unlike butter-rich cookies, which are best day of baking, these are even more flavorful on day two and three and four.
Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days at room temp or freeze for up to 1 month (thaw at room temp).