Posted by: thehungryrunner | June 15, 2010

Homemade Protein and Energy Bars: Chewy, yummy and absolutely addictive!

I have been publishing articles, be it via the web or in my newsletters or through magazine publications, for over ten years.  In that time, I’ve amassed hundreds of articles, which offers me the unique opportunity to hop in a time capsule and review where my mind — and keyboard — were at, say, in September 2003.  Or October 2007.  Or YIKES! pre-Y2K, now there’s a blast from the past.  This can be insightful but also a bit unnerving, considering how much a person can change in terms of writing style, interests, point of perspective, and experience.  Sometimes it’s hard to recognize the writer behind the words, even though that writer was me!

I bring this up because that’s somewhat how I feel when I pull up an old article I wrote, in which I reviewed my favorite protein bars (clearly, this was also back in an era in which the industry had not yet exploded to its current cornucopia of options).  Oh, how times change.

For some reason, a little while back I found my digestive tract suddenly growing feisty with certain protein bars.  Baffled, I began to pay closer attention to the ingredients, and made an effort to attend more nutrition seminars at my annual fitness conferences.  It was eye-opening, to say the least.  As much as I appreciate the notion of everything in moderation, I really did (probably wrongly) expect more from protein bars, in terms of the “cleanliness” of the ingredients.  Instead, it turns out there are plenty of sugars, hydrogenated oils, and other disconcerting additives, which I suppose makes sense as how else does one create a bar that looks like a candy bar, tastes like a candy bar, and even sports a solid chocolate coating?  The rules of food chemistry still apply no matter how much added protein or B vitamins or “powerfood complex” are included in every bite.

I should mention, in all fairness, that happily there still are many bars out there which are comprised of wholesome, reassuringly recognizable ingredients, with no harmful fats and sweetening acquired solely through the naturally occuring sugars in dried fruit and fruit juices, though it does require vigilance with label-reading to uncover them.

Even so, upon the realization that way too many bars are less than healthy in their nutrient profiles, I began to experiment with various recipes for my own homemade energy and protein bars, and have found them such a tasty alternative, I don’t miss the prepackaged ones at all.  On the contrary, the simple formula I’ve come up with, and all its variations, is far more satisfying, with just the right chewiness, taste and texture to satisfy my craving for something sweet, yet give me a wallop of energy, without weighing down my digestion.  Best of all, I’m in control of the ingredients, so I can adjust it to exactly what I have a taste for, and what my body needs, at any one given moment!

With that in mind, the following is my “basic formula” protein and energy bars, followed by several varations that have worked out particularly well, each one distinct, tasty, and easy to whip up.  Best of all, there’s no baking required!

Basic Formula:  Peanut butter Protein and Energy Bars

  • 1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 scoop whey protein powder (I have used vanilla, natural and chocolate flavors)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • Optional:  sprinkling of cinnamon

Mix the peanut butter and honey until smooth.  In a separate bowl, stir together the whey protein powder, 1/4 cup of the nonfat dry milk powder, and (if using) the cinnamon until well-combined.  Add dry mixture to the peanut butter/honey, mixing well.  Add additional milk powder, a little at a time, until desired consistency is achieved (somewhat like cookie dough).  If the mixture becomes too dry or crumbly, add a small amount of additional peanut butter and honey to moisten.  If the mixture is too sticky, add a small amount of additional milk powder.  Mix in the raisins (I find it’s easier to use my hands) and form the “dough” into a large ball.  Tear off pieces and form them into small logs, about the length and twice the width of your forefinger.  Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.  Alternately, you can shape the dough into balls, or press the mixture into a loaf pan and cut into squares (chill first before cutting).  Makes approximately 8-10 small bars.

So there’s the basic — delicious all by itself.  For the following variations, follow the same directions as above:

Variation 1:  Cashew Coconut (or Pineapple) Protein and Energy Chews

  • 1/2 cup cashew butter
  • 2 T. honey OR apricot jam
  • 1 scoop vanilla or natural flavor whey protein powder
  • 1/2-3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup shredded dried coconut or finely chopped dried pineapple
  • Optional:  1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Variation 2:  Sunflower Butter and Golden Raisin Protein/Energy Treats

  • 1/2 cup crunchy sunflower seed butter
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 scoop vanilla or natural flavor whey protein powder
  • 1/2-3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

Variation 3:  Almond-Maple-Cinnamon Protein and Energy Delights

  • 1/2 cup toasted almond butter
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 scoop vanilla or natural flavor whey protein powder
  • 1/2-3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped figs or dates
  • Sprinkling of cinnamon

Variation 4:  Peanut butter-cherry-chocolate Protein/Energy “Fudge”

  •  1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 T. cherry preserves
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1/2-3/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

I hope these have inspired you to give at least one a try, and to come up with combinations of your own!  My only warning:  You may find yourself having to return to the store for more ingredients, as these are ADDICTIVE.  Then again, since their supposed purpose is to fuel one’s fitness activities, what better way to motivate you to go for that run or follow through with your yoga class, knowing that this delectable “sports treat” awaits you on the other side of your workout?

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