I’ve learned a lot over the past year. One of the most important lessons, in my opinion, was about respecting our food. At school my classmates and I cooked with an assortment of meat and dairy products each day, and I was always a bit disturbed by how the instructors were so dismissive of the animals we were eating. I remember one particular class where the instructor stated “Do not think of this as an animal. It’s factory raised meat, meant for our consumption.” I have no idea if this bothered any of my classmates. I know that the point of culinary school is to cook professionally and that the majority of consumers want meat and dairy, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that animals lose their lives in the process, often in cruel ways. I was told I’d eventually become desensitized by the experience and in some ways that was true. But ultimately I became a much more conscious consumer.
I don’t see myself ever giving up meat and dairy completely, but I believe in limiting my intake. I don’t need milk in my cereal and meat on my dinner plate every day. There are many other delicious options. I began making these breakfast bars recently as a healthy, inexpensive alternative to processed store-bought bars. Not only are they vegan but they’re very filling and keep me energized throughout the day. I make them on the weekends and then grab one on the go every morning. The nice thing about this recipe is that the ingredients are flexible so you can change it up a bit each time to prevent boredom. For example, you can substitute agave nectar or corn syrup in place of the maple syrup, use peanut instead of cashew butter… endless possibilities. My favorite combination so far is cashew butter, almonds, maple syrup and dried cranberries.
Also, check out my gluten-free version here!
- 1⅔ cups rolled oats
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup oat flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 ounces dried cranberries
- 6 ounces unsalted almonds
- ⅓ cup cashew butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 6 tablespoons melted Earth Balance
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x9 brownie pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with either cooking spray or Earth Balance.
- Use a food processor to coarsely chop the almonds and cranberries. The bars hold together better when the pieces are smaller.
- In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
- In a smaller bowl, combine wet ingredients except for the cashew butter.
- Combine the wet ingredients into the dry along with the cashew butter. Stir well to make sure everything is evenly combined.
- Move ingredients into the greased pan. Use plastic wrap to firmly press the mixture down evenly so that it's in the corners and flat on top.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes. Look for browning around the edges.
- After removing from the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a cooling rack, then finish cooling in the refrigerator until chilled.
- Use a knife or bench scraper to make 9 bars. Wrap individually and chill.