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These energy bites can be customized by flavor and shape, and they're tractor approved for even the toughest harvest season. (Cristen Clark, Special to Agweek)

Tractor approved no bake energy bites

Harvest is dragging on here in Central Iowa, and we've hit a pocket of decent weather to knock out the remaining corn that's standing. We've had hot days, cool days, rainy days and snowy days. There have been days that are slow-going and some long days that never seem to end. Energy reserves are running a tad bit low among the crew and having something decent to snack on keeps morale up and taste buds happy.

Mom is keeping the lunch boxes stacked with plenty of treats in case we have young riders join us at any time. My niece Kemper has been hospitalized for the majority of the past month with complications from pneumonia, sidelining her from kindergarten for a while. Her younger sister Kendyl has been rolling with me and is quite the harvest hand. She loves to give Grandpa a hard time on the two-way radios. She also enjoys driving along on my lap in the open field with popular kids' tunes playing on the radio. It's nice to have a buddy in the buddy seat.

Basketball season is in full swing as well, and I can't remember a time in the last several years that we've still been in the field by this point. When tournaments officially start here in a week, the plan is to be done harvesting, because in our family, sports seem to be our entertainment. Keeping Halle and her teammates fueled and hydrated is quite the job!

I love these no-bake energy bites because they really do taste great and everyone seems to like them. I've seen them in gas stations and grocery store bakeries and they are quite expensive! This recipe is simple to make, doesn't cost too much and the bites freeze well. There are a few tricks to making them right and endless possibilities of flavors and styles you can make!

To get the proper consistency for rolling, these ideas work well:

• By pulsing some of the oat and nut mixture, the size of the oats and nuts are reduced and aid in the forming of each ball.

• Simmering the peanut butter, oil, butter and honey mixture brings the ingredients together smoothly. Be sure to cool this mixture to just-warm before draping it over any chocolate chips because they may melt! If in doubt, mix your warm peanut butter mixture with the remaining ingredients, then add chocolate chips last. The residual heat from the wet mixture will be lessened by the added oat mixture.

• If you plan to make your bites on the smaller side, chop fruits and nuts and be sure to use miniature chocolate chips.

• Substitutions are welcome! If you substitute almond butter for creamy peanut butter the texture may change a bit. I've used extra light olive oil in this recipe when I didn't have vegetable oil on hand as well.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today is customizable in many ways!

• For monster cookie style bites, substitute mini M&M chocolate candies for half of the chocolate chips

• For fruit inspired trail mix bites, substitute chopped dried fruit (raisins, cherries, pineapple, apricots, etc.) for the chocolate chips and add different kinds of nuts alongside peanuts and almonds to equal the noted 3 cups.

• For oatmeal raisin bites, substitute chopped raisins for chocolate chips and up the cinnamon in the recipe to 1/2 tsp.

• For a healthful twist, substitute some of the oats for chia seeds, flax seeds, ground flaxmeal, etc.

Tractor Approved No Bake Energy Bites

By: Cristen    www.foodandswine.com

Ingredients:

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cup regular rolled oats

1 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds, roughly chopped

1 1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or mixture of mini and large chocolate chips

Directions:

In a medium saucepan combine peanut butter, oil, butter, cinnamon and honey.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer 30 seconds.  Remove from heat, cool to warm.  Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl combine oats, almonds, peanuts, and sesame seeds. Place half of this mixture in a food processor, pulse slowly until mixture is fine, checking along the way. (Don't over-process because the nuts can get hot and turn into nut butter.) Add this mixture back to large mixing bowl.  Stir in cooled (just warm) peanut butter-oil -honey mixture until well combined.  Add chocolate chips and mix together with clean hands to incorporate.  Scoop 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp each, form into balls. Chill until firm.  Store in refrigerator or freezer. Makes about 3-4 dozen bites depending on size.

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