homemade energy bars V: shot blocks

One of my favorite authors once wrote “how we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” It’s one of those observations so plain it pricks you. Nothing terribly complicated or profound, but as true as the sun’s heat in July.

On a bike ride the other day, I saw it printed on the Unitarian Universalists’ church lawn sign. (Am I the only one who’s noticed that the more liberal the church, the better the church sign quotes?)

w_blocks1_3834587104_oThis week, I got my days back. And true to Annie Dillard’s sentiment, my life. It came suddenly, with the absence of 9 am starts, ominous deadlines, and open jaws of expectation. It came, bringing hours to write and cook and clean and shop for groceries.  It came with empty hours too, heavy with shoulds and if-onlys.

And so here I find myself in that precarious place between the fullness of life and its opposite. This past year has been manic, and looking back I’m sometimes surprised I survived. But rather than rolling gently off that year, I’ve crashed abruptly into this week.w_blocks2_3834606264_o

This week — with its scaled-back workout schedule, pressing humidity, and loose ends — is like an irritating old friend. You love her but sometimes you just don’t know what to do with her.


Besides being void of routine, this week has also brought the dreaded taper, that bittersweet period before a big race when triathletes attempt to do something foreign to their very existence: rest. For most, this comes about as naturally as speaking Czech.


But with the advice of my tri friends ringing loudly in my ears (“5% undertrained is better than 3% overtrained”), I’m hanging out with my food processor instead of my running shoes. I decided it was time to bring you another snack packed with energy and natural goodness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of Clif shot blocks and GU gel as the next endurance athlete. But I also take pride in turning the earth’s bounty into sport fuel. Minus the citric acid, “natural flavor,” sunflower oil, and carnauba wax.


So here’s a humbler kind of shot block, one that looks suspiciously like a Christmas goodie. The chocolatey goodness comes from minimally processed cocoa powder, delivered a shot of not only good-for-you flavanols, but magnesium and zinc too. And we all know how great almonds are for us.

And so going back to my opening quote, I guess I spent part of my day conjuring up good and healthy things. My life, I hope, will follow suit.

Homemade Shot Blocks

yields anywhere from 12-24 blocks, depending on the size

1 cup pitted dates
1.5 cup pitted prunes
1/3 cup almond butter*
2 Tbsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
5 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
finely grated unsweetened coconut

*if you don’t have almond butter on hand, toast 3/4 cup slivered almonds and let cool. Process them into a paste, and then continue with the rest of the recipe.

  1. Drop the dates and prunes into a food processor one by one until they form a paste. Add the almond butter, maple syrup,salt, and cocoa and continue to blend until well mixed. Due to varying moisture content in different brands of dried fruit, you may have to adjust the amounts to achieve the right consistency. The “dough” should be a moldable paste that holds together well, much like play-dough.)
  2. Form pieces of the dough into balls smaller than a ping-pong ball, and shape into blocks. Dip in finely grated coconut or plain sugar, if desired.

Nutritional Info for entire recipe (divide by the number you make to yield amounts per serving): 1474 calories, 47 g fat, 278 g carbs, 342 g fiber, 24 g protein.

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