Updated: Feb 15, 2022
I am a dessert most nights person. I know, I know… I’m a dietitian so I how could I speak such blasphemy?! Why would I even touch sugar, the silent killer? How could I lack such willpower? First, sugar isn’t the devil. Second, I don’t lack willpower, I just enjoy sweets, like my Magic Trailblazer Bars. And third, all foods fit in a balanced diet.
Give Your Brain a Break by Baking
I don’t know about you guys, but I have been all about baking recently – and really for the entirety of autumn. I’ve always found baking (and cooking) to be relaxing and enjoyable. Just the other day I read about how baking is therapeutic in a variety of ways.
The physical changes you see, the lovely sweet smells, and the methodical nature of measuring and stirring stimulates the brain, forcing you to be present and engaged in the process; it’s a fun and rewarding way to distract you from your own (and often overwhelming) thoughts. How cool? So if you’re stressed and need a brain break, try baking!
“Sugar, Sugar… Oh Honey, Honey!” Should You Avoid It?
With the craziness that is life, I’m going to keep baking, and a new batch of my delicious Magic Trailblazer Bars is on the list for today!
Like I said earlier, sugar is not the devil and you do not have to completely cut it out of your diet to live a “healthy” lifestyle. As a nutrition expert, I recommended limiting excessive sugar consumption, but as a human and dessert lover as I am all about enjoying sweet treats in moderation.
That being said, I like to experiment with natural and more nutrient dense sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, fresh or dried fruit, and 100% fruit juice over granulated or brown sugar on occasion. Although these natural sweeteners still contain sugar, they also contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and/or antioxidants and add so much flavor! Naturally sweetened with local honey and chopped dates, these Magic Trailblazer Bars are a better-for-you sweet treat for any day of the week.
More desserts made with natural sweeteners:
Magically Delicious Bars!
Have you every tried Hello Dolly Bars or 7-Layer Magic Bars? Well, my Magic Trailblazer Bars are kinda like that, but lower in sugar, higher in nutrient density, and just as tasty! Honey and dates, both of which contain a variety of vitamins and minerals as well as phytochemicals, are the primary sweeteners used in these bars.
The variety of textures and flavors in these Magic Trailblazer Bars is amazing. With a perfectly salted pretzel shortbread crust, a sweet chocolatey, oat-filled, nutty topping, and creamy peanut butter center, these bars are such a crowd pleaser – perfect for any occasion.
My husband, who is more of a traditional chocolate chip cookie, ice cream, and chocolate croissant kinda guy, said, and I quote: “These bars are great – I love them! I love the peanut butter, I love the chocolate. The sweetness and saltiness is just right.” If that’s not a stellar review, I don’t know what is!
What’s in This Recipe?
Almond flour – contains vitamin E, fiber, and healthy fats
Tapioca starch or cassava flour or cornstarch
Pretzels – contains carbohydrates
Coconut oil – contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)
Walnuts – high in ALA omega 3 fatty acids which have a variety of health benefits, vitamin E
Unsweetened shredded coconut – contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), fiber, and antioxidants
Old fashioned oats* – contains fiber to promote heart health and digestive health as well as energizing carbohydrates
Dates – natural sweetener, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals
Honey – natural sweetener; contains antioxidants, prebiotics, and a variety of vitamins and minerals
Vanilla extract – adds flavor
Dark chocolate – contains magnesium, manganese, antioxidants, and iron
White chocolate – adds flavor and happiness
Peanut butter – contains heart healthy fats, plant-based protein, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, and the phytonutrient resveratrol
Notes: To make these bars gluten free, use certified gluten free oats* and pretzels*. To make them dairy free, simple nix the white chocolate chips** and just use dark chocolate.
Magic Trailblazer Bars
Prep time: 5 minutes
Bake time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 bars
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch or cassava flour or cornstarch
30 regular sized pretzels*
2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup old fashioned oats*
5 dates, pitted and chopped
2 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp. white chocolate chips**
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 350oF. Line a large bread loaf pan with parchment paper.
Add the almond flour, tapioca starch, and pretzels to a food processor. Grind until the pretzels are chopped into small pieces, but not too fine. Add the melted coconut oil, and pulse until well dispersed.
Press the shortbread mixture into the parchment-lined loaf pan, then bake for 15 minutes.
While the shortbread crust bakes, combine the walnuts, coconut, oats, dates, honey, vanilla, and both kinds of chocolate chips in a small mixing bowl.
Allow the shortbread crust to cool for 5 minutes, then cover with peanut butter, and top with chocolate, nut, and oat mixture. Press down until flat, then bake for 10 more minutes.
Allow the bars to cool in the loaf pan for 5 minutes, then cool in the fridge (or freezer) until firm before cutting into 8 bars. Store the bars in the fridge.
Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. When you make these Magic Trailblazer Bars or any Hope For Balance recipe, tag me at @hope.for.balance and use the hashtag #hopeforbalance for a chance to be featured in my Facebook or IG stories. I LOVE seeing your creations!