Sunday, January 19, 2014

homemade no-bake protein bars

Now that I've been in Krav Maga training for the past 8 months, I sometimes just find myself... hungrier. If that's even possible.

Last Sunday I spent all day at the KM school. It was my first day back at training, having been away for 3 weeks. I went to my usual back-to-back classes in the morning (Krav Maga Level 1 and TRX). It so happened that they had 2 special classes in the afternoon: a 2-hour Ground Fighting (meaning, defending while you're on the ground) and a 1-hour Weapons Defense class. I had a half-hour break in between the morning and afternoon classes. It was quite ambitious for my first day back, and I have to say I was sore till Wednesday. As always, classes were excellent. The learning is worth every sore muscle.  

The place where I train is about a 40-minute drive (on a good day) from where I live, and on weekends when I do 2 classes back-to-back, I am just ravenous afterwards. I usually take along some plain almonds, or a mix of almonds, chocolate chips, and dried cranberries, or one of those commercially available snacks such as LÄRABAR or KIND bars, so that I can re-fuel (myself, not the car) on my drive back home. I was never into granola bars or protein bars, except for these two brands that I have in my rotation. I have to admit I'm picky about these things. They tend to be either too dry, too sweet, too hard, too bland, too this and that and the other. I liked LÄRABAR and KIND since they were whole-food based, with mostly dates, fruit, nuts, and seeds.

Available in a variety of flavors (see here)

But lately (a) plain almonds get tiring, and (b) I needed some more variety besides the usual LÄRABAR and KIND bars. Also, I've been finding the LÄRABAR to be a little to sweet. I used to love them, but I think something has happened to my sweet tooth. (I never thought it would be possible). I also don't like eating the same old thing again and again - I need variety.

On my all-day training last Sunday, the girl I partnered with for the drills had homemade protein bars. Her recipe had peanut butter, honey, oats, and protein powder. I didn't get the chance to ask her for her specific recipe, so I set out to make my own post-training snack.

I was never into protein powders before, as I was always leery of whatever ingredients they put in it. Last summer at our local grocery store, they were giving out samples of a smoothie with Garden of Life Raw Protein, which is based on grains and seeds. I was familiar with the brand as I've taken their vitamins before. The smoothie I tasted had blueberries, bananas, spinach, chocolate almond milk, and the Garden of Life powder. It was SO good. Not overly sweet, no grainy texture, no strange aftertaste. They happened to be offering a discount as well, so I bought one, and since then I've often made that same combination that I tasted. I did not use it everyday as I like to mix things up; on other days I add protein to my smoothie by using plain kefir, yogurt, or almond butter. I haven't used it the protein powder in a couple of months now as it's been too cold to make a smoothie. So homemade protein bars are a great way to use it, and it can help with muscle recovery.

(Did I just sound like a fitness buff??? I feel like an impostor saying that.)

Here's what I came up with:

Homemade Protein Bars

  • 2/3 cup nut butter (almond, peanut, etc - I used Trader Joe's creamy almond butter)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup oats - ground in a food processor (I ended up with about 2/3 cup after grinding; I did not grind it till perfectly fine, there were certainly some coarsely ground bits, which I felt was ok for texture)
  • 1/3 cup almond meal (I use Trader Joe's)
  • 1/3 cup protein powder (I use Garden of Life RAW Protein, in vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed
  •  1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
  • ~3 tbsp water

*Just to simplify things, it is a fairly straightforward ratio of 2 parts nut butter, 1 part sweetener, 1 part protein powder, 1 part almond meal, 1 part ground flaxseed, and approx 2 parts of oat flour. I wouldn't sub all-purpose flour for the oat flour here as it is a no-bake recipe. The other additions (vanilla, salt, chia seeds) are just extras for flavor and texture.

  1. Over low heat, I warm the nut butter and honey together - this step makes it easier to mix. To that I add the vanilla and salt.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Combine with the nut butter and honey in a large bowl. Add enough water to make the mixture moist enough to stick together, but not too wet. 
  3. Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper or grease the inside with a little oil (I used coconut oil), then spread the mixture evenly in the pan. Make sure to press it firmly into the pan to pack everything tightly. Dampen your hands with water to smooth the top, or use the flat bottom of a measuring cup.
  4. Refrigerate for a few hours to set, then slice into bars. Wrap or pack them individually in containers for your lunch or gym bag.
You can also double the recipe and use 2 loaf pans or a square pan - these are just the proportions I started with because I didn't want to make too much and and end up not liking it. This recipe yielded 6 bars, which was enough for a week.   

I really loved these! They were not overly sweet, and the chia seeds added some nice texture. Just make sure that after you eat one of these, do a quick check in the mirror to be sure you don't have a chia seed stuck between your teeth. Trust me on this one.

You could certainly experiment with flavor combinations.  You could omit the flaxseed if you don't have it and just sub an equal part of protein powder for extra protein, or an equal part oats. If you're going gluten-free and can't use oats (gluten-free oats are a bit harder to find, as they tend to be milled in the same facilities that handle flour), sub more almond flour or almond meal. Maybe add some chopped dates, some slivered almonds, or unsweetened dried coconut flakes. Or even drizzle some melted chocolate on top if you're feeling indulgent.

I can't give you nutrition facts - in terms of how many grams of protein and fiber etc - for this recipe, but I'd say it has a nice balance of protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and healthy fat. Or I'd say it's just yummy. That's reason enough, right?   

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1 comment:

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