Wow, the Shenandoah is beautiful. I was able to hike somewhere (friends chose the spot, so I don’t really know where) along Skyline Drive this past weekend and was in awe of the surreal and heavenly view. Twig-like trees covered in soft snow with the sun shining through the woods… Breathtaking. I am so thankful that I was able to have such a great time outside of the city.
Even if my hands lost feeling for the last 3-4 miles and my friend had to give me his jacket (to wear over the one I owned/was already wearing), it was a fantastic afternoon. I enjoyed learning a little bit more about how not to die in the woods, as well as discovering a cemetery over a century old while literally racing downhill through the snow covered trails.
A scene from hiking
While I was hiking, I munched on some protein bars that my friend had been thoughtful enough to pack. I got to thinking about how expensive such bars are and how, especially with many of my recent acquaintances being men and women who are serving in the U.S. military, who choosing protein-packed food options is a priority. It’s way too easy to spend gobs of money on bars that often have unpronounceable and unidentifiable ingredients and very high sugar contents.
So, as you can imagine, I set to work this week. I tried 5 new recipes for power/energy/protein/granola bars. From years of making my own breakfast and snack bars, I knew which ones I would prefer from the beginning (the granola bars), but I wanted to try some more protein-heavy, light-gluten bars for friends who prefer more paleo style diets.
I hope you enjoy the products of my adventures this past week!
From top left, clockwise: Chocolate protein cakey brownie, fruit and nut granola bar, chocolate fudge protein bar, almond apricot granola bar, PBJ protein bar.
The Chocolate Protein Cakey Brownie is a cakey brownie that cuts nicely, though crumbles easily, so try to pack in a tupper ware and avoid throwing in a plastic bag. They are not fudgy, but they aren’t dry either, and definitely taste great mixed into ice cream, yogurt, or even a milkshake/smoothie. These got positive reviews are being dessert-like.
The Fruit and Nut Granola Bar has a nice and chewy consistency, but definitely make sure you grease your pan well. This is the only recipe in a 9×13 (all others on this post of 8×8), so definitely a good one to turn to if wanting a large number of bars. The fact that this is mixed in the food processor makes it very easy to put together. Probably took me all of 5-8 minutes the first time I made it, though I did have all of the ingredients already out on the counter. This stores pretty well, and if you cut them in squares rather than long bars, they hold up pretty well if tossed in a baggy in your purse.
The Chocolate Fudge Protein Bar was the favorite among a lot of my testers for its similarity to fudge and a decadent dessert. Be ware, this bar has a lot more sweetener (honey) than the other bars. because of the soft fudginess, these can squish easily. You could almost spread them… maybe I will spread one on toast with peanut butter and banana for breakfast sometime.
The Almond Apricot Granola Bar is my personal favorite. It has a soft, moist, chewy texture that just feels right for a snack. I cut them into squares and easily grab one with a glass of milk on my way out the door for breakfast. They don’t squish too easily and are probably the best for packing and travel of all the bars on this post. I would bring these to a kids play group or to an elementary soccer practice with some orange slices on the side, as I think they are very kid-friendly.
The Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Bars are delicious. They are soft and somewhere between a dense quick bread and fudge (that makes no sense, I know). You can use peanut flour or PB2 (a powdered peanut butter) for the peanut meal, but I used what I had on hand and it worked well. the jam on top can get a bit messy, so they don’t travel terribly well, but you could probably put half the dough int he pan, spread the jam on top, and then top with the remainder of the dough to help them travel better. Let me know if you try that.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Protein Cakey Brownie
Adapted from Edible Mosaic
Makes 1 (8 by 8-inch) pan
4 oz good quality semisweet chocolate (about 60% cacao), chopped*
3 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons low-fat Greek yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup vanilla protein powder**
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon instant coffee granules
1/4 cup granulated sweetener (or other sweetener of your choice; you can add more to taste)
Pinch sea salt
*You can use a chocolate bar or mini chocolate chips.
**You can omit the protein powder if you want; if you do so, reduce the amount of yogurt to 4 tablespoons.
Pre-heat oven to 325F and line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper so it hangs over the edges.
Melt half the chocolate in a microwave or double boiler; cool slightly, then whisk in the oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.
Stir in the almond meal, protein powder, cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee powder (if using), stevia, and sea salt, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in the remaining half of the chopped chocolate.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 25 to 35 minutes.
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup flax meal
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup raw almonds
1 small, ripe banana
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or line a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Place the oats, sunflower seeds, flaxmeal, flour, apricots, almonds and raisins in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped.
Add the banana, yogurt, cinnamon, nutmeg, syrup, eggs and vanilla, and pulse 6 or 8 times until the mixture is well combined. The mixture will be sticky.
Transfer the mixture to the baking pan and spread it out evenly using the back of a spatula sprayed, or by running your hands under cold water and using them to press the mixture evenly into the pan.Bake until just done, about 18 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool and firm up, about 5 minutes. Cut into 20 squares and package into individual portions by wrapping in wax paper, plastic wrap or small, re-sealable bags.
Chocolate Fudge Protein Bar
(my favorite of all 5 in this post)
Adapted from Rocco Dispirito
Makes an 8×8 pan, about 12 bars
15 oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 tsp instant coffee granules3/4 cup egg whites3 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour3/4 cup honey1 tbsp flavorless oil (I used canola)1 tsp vanilla extractPreheat the oven to 350°F. Line or grease an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish. Combine the beans, cocoa powder, coffee granules, egg whites, and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes scraping down the bowl halfway through.Add the honey, oil and vanilla. Process until all of the ingredients are combined, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into a prepared baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the dish halfway through the baking time. Turn down the temperature of the oven to 300°F and bake for another 5-8 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a little bit of soft batter clinging to it. It should NOT come out clean, if it does: it’s overcooked.Let the bars cool completely at room temperature in the baking dish on a wire rack. Then put them in the fridge for at least 3 hours. When they’re cold, cut them into 12 squares and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.
Vegan, Gluten-Free, Almond Apricot Granola Bar
(my favorite of all of these) Adapted from Eat Good 4 Life
Makes an 8×8 pan, or about 8 servings
1/ 2 cup almond butter
2 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/6 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/6 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup regular oats (use GF oats if going for GF)
2 tablespoons flaxmeal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line 8×8 baking pan.In a small pot over medium-low heat, mix almond butter, mashed bananas, and vanilla. Stir gently until well combined and then set aside -it takes about 2-3 minutes.In a food processor, coarse chop the almonds, apricots, and cranberries. Transfer to a bowl. Mix in seeds and oats. Fold in the almond butter mixture. Press the batter into the prepared baking pan.Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let granola cool before cutting into bars. Wrap each one and store in the fridge.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Bars
Adapted from SkinnyMinnieMoves
Makes an 8×8 pan, or 12 servings
1/2 cup peanut meal (grind plain peanuts in a food processor until corn meal consistency)
1 cup protein powder, vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened milk
1/2 cup applesauce
½ cup egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sweetener/sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2-3/4 cup jam of your choice
Preheat oven to 350F and grease or line an 8×8 pan. Mix all ingredients excluding the jam in a mixing bowl. Mix until creamy texture and with no lumps remaining. Press mixture into prepared pan.
Place half of the jam into mixture by placing it in chunks on top of the mixture, and microwave the other half at intervals of 20 seconds until syrup-like, the make swirls with the syrup-jam in the mixture for a marbled appearance.
Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. Take out and let it rest for 10-15 min before slicing.
*Note: I am going to try this recipe with chopped peanuts mixed into the dough, skipping the jam, and dipping each bar in melted dark chocolate. I’ll try to update you on the results if I do it.