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Be your own bar-ista and make these no-bake, gluten-free coffee bars. They’re energy bars with a jolt of caffeine — perfect for a mid-morning or afternoon snack, but because they have real perk-up-power, you’ll want to avoid them closer to bedtime. No biggie if you’re caffeine-sensitive (or you want to make them kid-friendly), simply follow the same directions, omitting the addition of instant coffee or espresso. Also, for a more protein-rich treat, swap chocolate-flavored protein powder for the cocoa powder. The mini chocolate chips are optional (but are they really?).
Swap options: Swap in 1 to 1½ scoops chocolate-flavored protein powder for more protein.*
You can use any nut butter of choice. If some of the oil has separated to the top of your jar, be sure to mix it back into the nut butter before measuring. Also, if your nut butter is stiff (versus soft and mushy), microwave it for ~20 seconds to make it easier to mix. I like to mist my measuring cups/spoons with nonstick oil spray before adding the nut butter, so it glides out seamlessly and doesn’t stick.
Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Cut the parchment paper in a way so that it hangs over the sides of the pan; this will make it easy to lift out your coffee bars when they’re done.
In a mixing bowl, add the oats, cereal, cocoa powder, instant coffee and salt, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In a separate large mixing bowl, stir together the peanut butter, honey and vanilla. (If the nut butter is too stiff, microwave for about 20 seconds to soften it up before adding the honey and vanilla.)
Add half the oat-cereal mixture into the nut butter bowl and blend until well-combined. Mix in the remaining oat-cereal mixture and continue to stir. You’ll need to push and mash the nut butter chunks to incorporate all the cereal. It’ll take some effort but after a minute or two it’ll all come together. The batter will be crumbly but moist.
Add the batter crumbles into the lined baking pan and press down using your fingers and palms to compress it and pack it in tightly, while evenly distributing it on the bottom of the pan. After you’re done, you can also press down on the batter with a wide flat spatula to ensure its neatly packed. If adding mini chocolate chips, scatter them over the top and press down with your fingers so they stick into the batter.
Stash in the fridge to firm for at least 30 minutes. Then, lift the parchment paper out of the pan and place on a flat cutting board. Using a long, sharp knife, cut the bars into 9 even squares (3 slices horizontally, 3 slices vertically for a total of 9 bars).
Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.