Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Book Review & Recipe: Hard Target by Howard Gordon with Apricot Coconut Energy Bars

Howard Gordon was the producer of 24, one of my all-time favorite shows (I loves me some Jack Bauer), as well as a producer of The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel, even more great television. He's also the co-creator of a new favorite show, Homeland on Showtime. If all that isn't enough, he writes thrillers now too. Last year I read his debut Gideon's War, and loved the thrill-a-minute pace, reminiscent of the best seasons of 24. His second thriller, again featuring global peacemaker (until he gets pissed off) Gideon Davis, is Hard Target (Touchstone, January 2012 Hardcover, 288 pages) which I recently had the opportunity to read and review.

Gideon's War was set in the jungles of Southeast Asia and on an oil rig facing a typhoon. Hard Target brings the action much closer with homegrown terrorists planning to launch a stunning mass-casualty attack in the nation's capital and eliminate the entire top tier of the U.S. government. Gideon Davis is no longer in favor with the new presidential administration and was forced to resign from his State Department position and settle into academia. He gets a tip from a very sketchy meth-head source about an upcoming terrorist attack on U.S. soil, just credible enough for him to take seriously. He enlists the help of his friend and former lover, FBI agent Nancy Clement, but her superiors don't believe them. That leaves Gideon, Nancy and his brother Tillman (stripped of his military ranking and pension and isolating himself in a wilderness cabin) to try and stop the attack.

Hard Target isn't as quickly-paced as Gordon's first book, and I was a little disappointed not to have Gideon's fiancé Kate play much of a role in this book since she kicked some serious terrorist butt in Gideon's War. Still, Hard Target is a deftly-written and absorbing page turner that kept me up late until I finished it. The whole concept of the terrorist attack--when and how it will take place is creative and a little mind-boggling to consider. You don't have to have read the first book to enjoy Hard Target, but I do recommend reading both if you are looking for smartly-written thrillers with a political bent. If I can't have my Jack Bauer time anymore, I am happy to have Gideon Davis.

The thing about thrillers is that no one ever has much time to eat and enjoy their food (or even go to the bathroom...), saving the world is HARD WORK people! Fighters of crime need something healthy and good that they can eat on the run. I am a big fan of grab-and-go energy bars--all the better when you can make your own and control what goes in them. While perusing the web looking for healthy energy bars, I came across these Apricot Coconut Energy Bars at Shutterbean. I liked the apricot base, especially with a good dose of coconut. I made a few small changes, adding pistachios to the mix both for the color and because I love them, and adding chia seeds for extra nutrients. Individually wrapped, they are ready to go for a quick snack and just hearty enough to stave off hunger when battling terrorists or whatever battles you are dealing with in your day.

Apricot Coconut Energy Bars
Adapted from A Shutterbean Original at Shutterbean.com
(Makes 8 or 16--depending on how you cut them)

1/2 cup cashews (I used 1/4 cup cashews + 1/4 cup pistachios)
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 Tbsp hemp seeds (I used 2 Tbsp hemp seeds)
(I added 2 Tbsp chia seeds)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Line a 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper or wax paper. Place cashews and pistachios in food processor and process until the thnuts are evenly chopped, then set aside. Put dried apricots in the food processor and process for 3-4 minutes to finely chop. Add coconut, oats, agave syrup, coconut oil, hemp seeds, chia seeds, ginger and salt. Process until mixture comes together into a ball. Add the chopped cashews and pulse until well combined.

Pat the mixture into the lined baking pan and firmly press into pan. Place in a freezer for one hour. Unmold bars, trim ends and cut into even rectangles or squares--depending on the size of bars desired. Bars will last up to one month if stored in an air tight container in the fridge. I wrapped mine individually so they were easy to grab and go.

Notes/Results: Great taste and texture--these bars are chewy with a nice little crunch from the chia and hemp seed, and are almost buttery tasting from the coconut oil. For those of you following me on my Engine 2 Challenge (28 days of vegan, plant-strong and no oil eating), these don't quite make the cut as is (I made them before I started the challenge), but I think you could easily remove the coconut oil and they would still work and be E-2 compliant. I cut my bars into 16 squares instead of the 8 larger bars in the recipe because the portion size is plenty for me and the nuts, hemp and chia give them staying power. Whatever size you cut them, they are easy to wrap up and toss in your purse or bag to munch on-the-go and they are much better for you than a processed energy bar. I would make these again.

Disclosure Statement: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review but as always, my thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.


  1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who misses Jack Bauer with every ounce of her heart and soul. I have a feeling he was my one true love.  SO dreamy.  That voice...

    These energy bars sound delicious! Like larabars but homemade...I could definitely use them as some good pre-long run fuel!

  2. saranya sajithkumarFebruary 22, 2012 at 5:36 AM

    I am so glad to follow your blog..

  3. Looks like a great snack. I made granola bars over the weekend and they're already almost gone. I'll have to try these next.


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