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Homemade energy bars wholesome, eco-friendly

Tribune News Service photo

More than two years since COVID assistance arrived for families, school lunches are starting to resemble pre-pandemic meals, including the government’s recall of reduced-price and free options for some students.

For my sons, that means no more “weekend bags.” Essentially a grocery care package to be consumed when kids aren’t in school, the bags contained both from-scratch entrees prepared by the school district’s food service and packaged snacks. Among the latter were lots and lots of bars.

Because my kids aren’t huge fans of granola bars, energy bars or breakfast bars, these went into a large glass container in the pantry, where anyone in the household could grab one in a pinch. But enough have simply sat there over the past year that it’s probably time to toss them out.

I have good reason to believe a fresher, more wholesome alternative would tempt my kids’ appetites before sports practices. And a homemade bar is infinitely more affordable and eco-friendly for thrifty families to assemble from bulk-bin ingredients, compared with grabbing individually wrapped bars from grocers’ shelves.

Mix up a batch of these energy bars for the week ahead, or double the batch and stash some in the freezer.

Energy Bars

1/2 cup dried fruit

1 1/4 cups old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats

1 cup roasted salted nuts or seeds

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large egg

Heat oven to 325 F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil. Lightly coat foil with nonstick cooking spray.

To make bars using a food processor, pulse the dried fruit if pieces are larger than raisins or dried cranberries. Add the old-fashioned oats, nuts and chocolate chips and pulse until oats are broken into small pieces with some powdery bits and nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the peanut butter, brown sugar, butter and egg and pulse until mixture is well-mixed and comes together in a sticky mass around blade.

To make bars by hand, chop dried fruit into 1/4-inch pieces. Coarsely chop nuts and chocolate chips. Combine chopped ingredients with quick-cooking oats in a large bowl. Add peanut butter, brown sugar, butter and egg and mix well to form a sticky mass.

Drop batter in large clumps to cover bottom of prepared pan. Wet your hands and firmly press mixture to form an even layer.

Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and set, for 30 to 35 minutes. Top should look dry and bounce back slightly when pressed. Cool completely in a pan on a wire rack. Using foil, slide out of pan onto a cutting board. Cut into eight 2-by-4-inch bars.

Bars can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes 8 bars.