Sweet and Neat Protein Bars
Protein bars are my sweet-tooth salvation, especially when traveling. Compact and already packaged in airtight containers, they’re easily stowable in suitcases and carry-on bags. And sometimes I slip them into my purse when going to a restaurant, party, food festival, or any other setting when I might be setting myself up to go without as everyone else is diving into donut sundaes or chocolate layer cake. Not only do they satisfy the sweet tooth, they’re anything but empty calories with an average of 20 grams of protein per bar!
Still, they’re expensive, and a bit, shall we say, chemical- and preservative-laden. Another drawback for me: most of the gluten-free and sugar free options still aren’t great because whey is the primary protein source. Maybe one day brands such as Orgain and Garden of Life will come up with sugar-free and gluten-free protein bars but until that happens, I’m rolling up my sleeves and making protein bars at home. That’s right, it can be done. It’s a bit labor intensive but you control the quality and the flavor, so what could be better? I can’t take total credit for this because the idea is inspired by the wonderful vegan cooking blog Oh She Glows and its genius creator Angela Liddon. I adapted this to be completely sugar-free and to accommodate my undying love of coconut . It’s a pretty accommodating recipe which means you can feel free to amend it to suit your tastes and preferences. Throw in nuts, chips and/or dried fruit if you like. It’s your protein bar. This recipe is a great starting point. Let me know how you like it, and what your favorite version is!
1 cup oat flour
1/3 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup Orgain vanilla protein powder *
½ cup peanut butter (sugarless and non-hydrogenated)
1 tablespoon vanilla
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup hot water
1/3 cup cacao nibs, whirred in Vitamix or coffee bean grinder
1/3 cup coconut oil
1-2 TBS espresso
* The protein powder I use is sweetened so I find these to be sweet enough as is. If you’re using unsweetened protein powder, add more sweetness with 1/3 cup agave syrup, maple syrup, raw sugar, honey, etc.
In a medium sized mixing bowl blend the oat flour, coconut, and protein powder together until well sifted. Add the remaining ingredients. The mixture will probably be too thick to stir so make sure your hands are nice and clean and start kneading. If it’s too dry, add a few more splashes of hot water. Flatten the dough-like mixture into an 8-inch brownie pan and flatten out with your hands until it’s an even thickness throughout. If it’s easier, flatten by rolling with a pastry roller or a pestle from a mortar and pestle. Freeze the bars for 10 minutes.
While the bars are chilling, melt the cacao nibs, coconut oil and espresso over low heat, whisking constantly until melted. Cacao nibs are ‘rocky’ by nature and won’t completely melt. Just get it as close as you can. Remove bars from the freezer and slice into squares before drizzling with cacao. These bars can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for several weeks.
Another option for the topping is to melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips (regular or sugar-free) with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and drizzle. The cacao nib version has more nutrients as cacao nibs are a superfood. Kids, however, might not dig ‘em so much.