Thursday, May 31, 2012

Homemade Energy Bars

Energy bars, protein bars, granola bars, I have used the names interchangeably. I think we all grab one of these when we need some quick and convenient snacks that taste good.

I decided to make my own and oh my were they delicious! Thank goodness I can give them to Roy, I found myself eating little pieces here and there with some creamy organic peanut butter on top....

I would classify these as "energy bars" because they are mostly carbohydrate. But I made them and know exactly what's in them, so I feel better about eating them. You never know what's in the garbage you buy in a package.

For the most part, any bars you buy are calorie dense, full of carbs and not much protein, and if they have a lot of protein they typically have a lot of fat too.

These were easy and great- I am making them again but I will be experimenting to move them more in the direction of a "protein bar". I have learned after a great deal of research that making a protein bar will be a bit more difficult though.

Now, I did not calculate a nutritional breakdown, if you know anything about food and nutrition you will see these are calorie dense, they have complex and simple carbs and are a treat- not a meal and not low calorie. If you are in contest prep- forget it!

I set out to devise a recipe with uncooked whey protein. Many experts will tell you that once you heat whey, and especially cook it, you change the structure of the protein, and how the body absorbs it, you denature it. (Great little video on the link there). Many experts will tell you that it doesn't matter, yet many insist it does. 

Since so many producers of whey protein insist on touting their "cold process" I tend to think that maybe they are right, it shouldn't be heated.

So what's in these delicious bars? I started with a 'base" recipe from Jonny Bowden's book called "The Healthiest Meals on Earth" (great book by the way!) He refers to this as "your polymeal on the go"

Here is a link to a site that has the exact recipe, remember I changed it and will explain my recipe. 

Almonds, 1/4 cup
Oats, 1 1/2 cups 
Brown Rice, puffed cereal, 1 cup 
Apricots, dried, diced, 1 cup 
Raisins, 1 cup
Chocolate  protein powder, 1/2 cup
Wheat germ, 1 cup
Maple syrup, 3/4 cup
Peanut Butter, 1/2 cup
Vanilla Extract, 1/2 tsp 
Cinnamon, ground, 1/2 tsp
Bittersweet chocolate, 3 ounces, chopped in medium pieces

Chop Almonds, then toast almonds, cereal and oats in a 13 x 9 pan at 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally for about 15 min. (line it with parchment if you like)

Chop apricots (I used the Cuisinart), combine well with raisins, protein powder and wheat germ. Combine with oat mixture and chocolate in a large bowl.

Put the maple syrup in saucepan over medium high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add peanut butter, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pour the syrup over the oatmeal mixture (this will slightly melt the chocolate too). Mix quickly and spread in a jelly roll pan (lined with parchment or foil). Press into a thin layer with parchment paper. Move fast! This is thick stuff.

Chill until firm (4 hours). Cut into 18 equal pieces. Wrap individually. Refrigerate until use. Can be frozen.

Number of Servings: 18

Here is the mixture after I manhandled it into the pan, it was stiff and crumbly. So what did I do differently? In a nutshell this:

I reduced the dried fruit, eliminated agave syrup, replaced rice syrup with maple syrup (and reduced it), doubled the whey protein (and used chocolate... hello!), added bittersweet chocolate.

I think the reduced fruits and syrups made it a bit dryer than the original. But I didn't want it that sweet nor did I want all the simple sugars of the fruit. Like I said, smeared with some good peanut butter on top, this is heaven to me!

Then I cut them up, and made everyone try them. And everyone loved them too! My next batch will be much less carbs and much more protein. I know the texture will change quite a bit, but I will keep experimenting and I will keep you posted. In the meantime, make these and use wholesome, organic ingredients. 

The crumbs were great in a bowl with a spoon too and if I drank milk, would have poured it over. I guess stirred in yogurt would be great!

But remember, even though they are homemade, they are still glorified candy bars. But candy bars I can feel good about eating!