My Aunt Gay (we’ve nicknamed her AGG) made a cool discovery the other day, and it is perfect for any health nuts on your holiday shopping list: Element custom whole food bars. Basically, you give someone a gift certificate to choose from a bunch of different ingredients and create their own box of custom-made energy bars. Perfect gift idea for healthy or athletic people, right?
AGG surprised David and me with a certificate for a box of custom bars, which brought back fond memories of college days when she (amazingly) used to mail me entire coffee cakes from this fabulous, health-conscious, local favorite California restaurant institution called Hobee’s. (Yes, I was pretty popular among my group of dorm friends.) If you are ever in Northern California and looking for a casual, slightly hippie-ish eatery with something for everyone, you should definitely look up one of their several locations. Hobee’s was a frequent destination for my family when we dined out. Even my meat-and-potatoes Dad could find enough to order that he enjoyed it and ate there without a fuss, despite the fact that tofu and sprouts are all over the menu. Our location always had lines spilling out the door and onto the El Camino Real sidewalk for weekend breakfast and brunch. They have noteworthy house-made granola and cinnamon-orange tea, too.
Anyway, I was super excited to create my own energy bars, and pleased with the variety of ingredients Element offers. It seems like they put in a lot of time and effort to be sure everyone can create a bar that matches their dietary needs. They have unrefined and unsweetened ingredients, chocolate chips, brittle-ish bases, and even whey and egg white proteins for people who want them. They tell you which ingredients are organic and exactly what is in them. You can even make a Paleo bar. I made my bars with dates, quinoa (!), almond butter, flax seeds, juice-sweetened dried blueberries, and unsulfered, unsweetened dried apricots.
You get to choose the name that will appear on your bar’s wrapper too. I wasn’t feeling particularly creative the night I made these, so I ended up with “Orange Meets Blue.” Yes, I realize that is a ridiculous combination for any Alabama far to highlight, but it was 9:30pm on a school night and that silly name was the only thing standing between me and my bed.
Our bars arrived in a cute box. They are tasty, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that the particular flavor combination I chose is knocking my socks off or is something I can’t live without and will continue ordering for myself consistently. However, I love knowing that there are quinoa and flax in my bars, no preservatives or additives, and only ingredients I feel great about. And I love the idea of gifting a box of custom bars. I think that is an exciting way to give something personalized and healthy during a season that can often become the opposite of both. Plus, as an added bonus, you know this gift won’t sit around gathering dust because it is practical and consumable.
Element charges about $42 for a box of custom bars (including shipping), or you could step down to about $30, and gift a box of one of their “popular recipe” non-custom bars, or two boxes of custom cereal. I haven’t tried the cereal yet; maybe that will be a future adventure.
Or, maybe you should just go ahead and gift yourself a box right now, since I am guessing most of us will need the extra energy these next couple of weeks… :)