Copious amounts of kale were sacrificed in my pursuit of a kale energy bar. On my umpteenth attempt at puréeing the leaves into gooey-green glue, inspiration struck: why not incorporate the kale in crispy kale-chip form? It only took one batch to know I had a winner. The trick to getting great bars is to make sure that the kale is super-crisp, which is a cinch so long as you dry the leaves thoroughly — I’m talking layers of clean dish towels or many turns in the salad spinner, a mere minute or two of effort, before baking. If water remains on the leaves, the kale will steam, not crisp. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of steamed kale bars doesn’t do it for me. But crispy, toasted seed-enhanced bars? Yes and yes.
Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the kale: Thoroughly wash the kale under cold water and remove all of the excess moisture by blotting the leaves between several layers of paper towels or spinning multiple times in a salad spinner. Transfer the kale to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle the leaves with the oil, tossing to coat the leaves.
Bake the kale in the preheated oven for 12-17 minutes until the leaves appear paper-thin and crisp, but not browned (watch closely). Using the parchment liner, transfer the kale to a rack and cool completely, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, spread the oats, pepitas, and sesame seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 8 minutes, shaking halfway through, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the cereal and berries. Crumble the cooled kale leaves into the bowl and gently stir to combine.
Combine the nut or seed butter, sugar, syrup, and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract.
Immediately pour the syrup mixture over the oats mixture, mixing with a spatula until coated.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place a large piece of parchment paper, waxed paper, or plastic wrap (coated with nonstick cooking spray) on top of the bar mixture and use it to spread, flatten, and very firmly compact the mixture evenly in the pan. Refrigerate at least 1 hour until firmly set.
Using the liner, lift the mixture from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 10 bars.