One of my favorite things to do with my mom is go on long walks or hikes in the hills around her house in Northern California. One time we were about halfway through our route when she pulled one of those little snack-size ziploc bags out of her pocket. It had a few goji berries in it, maybe a scant quarter of a cup, and she offered me some. I declined, so she nibbled on a few for a pick-me-up. Then she said, “I don’t even like these. Usually I bring those candy corn pumpkins. I was just trying to impress you with my goji berries!” It was hilarious. My mom is always saying funny things like that, not in a stand-up comedy kind of way, but in a can’t-help-but-be-amusing way.
Also funny is how she got the goji berries in the first place. She and my brother go shopping on Amazon together because they can get some health foods cheaper than at Whole Foods. They put, say, hempseeds in their cart. Then they get recommendations for other Amazon items they may like, say “Ooooh!” and add chia seeds to their cart. Then they get a fresh set of recommended items, “Ooooh!” and add mulberries to their cart. Eventually when another set of recommendations pops up, they say “Eh, coconut manna, we don’t need that,” so the spell is broken and they get on with the check-out process. This is how they end up with unfamiliar and sometimes strange-looking bulk powders and dried fruits for me to try when I go home, and also a bag of goldenberries that neither of them particularly liked and may still be sitting in the pantry.
So anyway, I’m not really a fan of goji berries, but David is. I’m more interested in their vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and protein, among other nutrients. This original recipe for granola bars made with chickpeas caught my eye a long time ago. Celine at have cake, will travel is so creative and clever. I turn to her vegan food substitutions book regularly, and like 500 Vegan Recipes quite a bit too.
I love the idea of sneaking beans into snack bars, and I can see these being great with dried cherries and almond butter, or really any combination of dried fruits. You don’t taste the chickpeas at all. They’re just in the background providing sustenance, fiber, protein, and nutrition.
I’m going to be honest with you though: this is not one of those recipes that you make because it tastes incredible. It is one that you put together when you want a new way to eat beans, or something unique, healthy, and filling to have on hand in the fridge. It is more function than flair, if you get my drift. It has a quirky, spicy, tart flavor. If that is not your style, try this honey tahini vanilla version, which I like better because of its smoother, sweeter, more traditional taste.
The bars turn out dense, soft, moist, and chewy. Depending on your appetite, you could probably use them as the main part of your breakfast or lunch rather than a snack. They remind me of those circular oatcake pucks that my mom and I used to buy at the checkout counter of health food stores years and years ago. I’m already imagining another adaptation of this chickpea bar with a few different flavors, which you may see on here soon.
Chickpea Apple Goji Ginger Energy Bars
(adapted from have cake, will travel)
1 heaping Tbsp. ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup warm water
2 and 1/4 cups cooked chickpeas (canned are fine, but drain and rinse them first)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
1 tsp. ground ginger (I think this complements the apple and goji berries well, but you might leave it out when you use other fruits)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 and 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal, or other puffed whole grain
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 medium-large apple, diced small
1/4 cup dried goji berries
dash of finely ground sea salt (optional if your nut butter and beans are already salted)
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Stir together the flaxseed and water, and set it aside.
3. Toss the chickpeas with the sugar and 1 tsp. of the cinnamon until the sugar and spice are evenly distributed. Put them in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake for 16 minutes, stirring them well after the first 8 minutes.
4. Add the almond butter, agave, coconut oil, and salt (if using) to the flaxseed mixture. Stir until well-combined.
5. When the chickpeas have finished baking, mash them with a potato masher. They do not have to be perfectly uniform mush, but you do want to break up all the whole beans, and turn most of them them into small, soft, flaky pieces similar to the texture of cookie dough.
6. In a big mixing bowl, stir together the chickpea mush, puffed rice cereal, ginger, the other 1 tsp. of cinnamon, oats, and fruit.
7. Add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl, and stir until everything is evenly combined. Taste, and add more ginger or salt as needed.
8. Give your chickpea baking dish a bit of a cleaning and line it with parchment or wax paper. Pour the mixture in, and use another piece of parchment or wax paper to press it down evenly into a dense square.
9. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing. Store in the fridge. Will keep one week.
Makes 12 big, thick bars, or at least 24 smaller squares. You may want to halve the batch, or find a friend to help you eat them!