Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fueling Up, Heading Out

Even with all the insane options we sampled at the CRFA Show, there was still some room in my friends' appetites (and bags!) for a couple homemade snack bars I brought along. I was trying my hand at taking my ideal elements of a cereal / granola bar - chewy, a bunch of fruit, minimal "sugar high" tendencies and no candy (really, Quaker? What's left that's healthy in these, or these?) and stuffing them into a form with some protein, fibre and good portability! Thanks to one of my chef crushes, Mr. Brown - I'm looking at you - I decided to award myself bonus points for doing it twice, and thanks to the good ol' noggin of mine (and a very well-stocked pantry) one of them is even gluten free! Heck, both the recipes are even dead simple to veganize (directions in the how-to), and include all the goodness of ancient grains, fruit and nuts. Minimal cleanup thanks to greased foil-lined pans was a definite bonus. Yeah, I've made enough failures to appreciate the arm strength needed to chisel oats and caramelized sugar-shellac off Pyrex.

The key mixture of goodness that I used in both these bars came pre-tossed for me courtesy of (as always) Bulk Barn - a trail mix of almonds, goji berries, raisins, pineapple and sunflower seeds appropriately called "Goodness of Gogi". It looked so inviting in the bin that I had to see what it was about! Plus, it's nice to know what I was sticking into these "health-food" clones - no preservatives or gobbledegook to sift through!

So the power (or protein, if you want to call them that) bars are really more than the sum of their parts when you come down to it. Not only does this mixture contain tofu, soy isolate and peanut butter (like in AB's version), I added a power blend of my own: wheat gluten, chia seed, flax and sesame seeds, amaranth, honey, and toasted soy "nuts" for kicks. The half-batch recipe I made cut perfectly into 8 bars that I wrapped in plastic for a snack that is (to toot my own horn) better than any kind of storebught supplement, and is an awesome breakfast on the go if you're the kind of person who's in their office (or carpool, or bus shelter) more than their kitchen. Cut them in half for kids or as a snack too - there's a good dose of good carbs and fibre to partner with the protein!

Perfect Protein Power Bars
Makes 8 large, 16 small
6 oz silken tofu
2 tbsp cranberry juice
2 tbsp honey (for vegan version use dark agave syrup)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg (for vegan version add 1/4 cup more peanut butter)
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup soy protein powder
1/4 cup spelt bran
2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
2 tbsp sweet rice flour
2 tbsp wheat germ
2 tbsp chia seed
3 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
2 tbsp whole flaxseed
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp amaranth
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz fruit and nut trail mix of choice, soaked in hot water and drained
2 oz roasted soybeans
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8" square pan with greased foil or parchment.
  2. In a food processor, puree tofu, cranberry juice, honey, brown sugar and peanut butter. Scrape into a large bowl.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients until everything is well combined.
  4. Press / scrape into the pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Bake 35 minutes. Chill overnight in the pan before cutting and serving.
Amount Per Serving (1 large bar)
Calories: 421.1
Total Fat: 20.8 g
Cholesterol: 26.6 mg
Sodium: 151.5 mg
Total Carbs: 40.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.3 g
Protein: 22.6 g

But neither man nor (especially) women can subsist off of protein alone. Deprive me of my carbs, dear reader, and you will soon see me transform into something inhuman! As a kid in school, I would swap anything that would be "tradeable" - not much from my mom - for a chewy, chocolate-dipped granola bar. I never liked cooked oatmeal either. Of course, without half a bag of choclate of chocolate chips poured ontop. Tastes have sure changed! I love me a good mid-afternoon bowl with a small spoonful of brown sugar, a touch of honey and a scoop of unsweetened cocoa (I never said I stopped liking chocolate!).

When I was scouting around for a basic bar recipe that would give me the chewy texture I adore (I despise the "crunchy" kinds), I came across a winner thanks to Becky, the food blogger at Vintage Mixer. She assured me hers were the chewy type of bars and hey - how could you not want to make her recipe (also adopted from AB!), with photos like these?? These granola-esque bars became more "esque" than "granola", really - since even though I used (certified GF) oats, I bulked up the blend with Textured Vegetable Protein, sesame, chia, amaranth, poppy and sesame seeds, ground almonds, quinoa and kasha! Even though I (obviously) needed to toy with the "wet" ingredients too to compensate for all the stuff, the resulting mixture was still amazingly chewy and not overwhelming in any one flavour. When I passed the paper bag filled with the individually-wrapped bars (how lunchroom-eque, I know) to the awesome girls at my salon, their eyes lit up at the option of a reason to avoid the RutR lines at Tim's! I'm betting that - if their school isn't one of the gazillion out there with a nut-free policy - kids would take one of these to eat with lunch too. If you let them after a taste, of course!

Goodness "Grain"ness Granola Bars
Makes 16
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup dry TVP
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat)
2 tbsp amaranth
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1/3 cup whole flaxseeds
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
3/4 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup psyllium fibre husks
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp agave nectar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp cranberry juice
1 cup trail mix of choice, soaked in hot water and drained
1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F, line a 9x13" pan with greased foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl, combine the oats, TVP, sesame seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, kasha, amaranth, poppy seeds, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, ground almonds, psyllium husks and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large pot, heat the honey, agave, brown sugar, peanut butter, sesame oil and cranberry juice until the peanut butter is melted and the brown sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add the grain mixture to the pot with the trail mix, raisins and vanilla, stirring well to combine.
  5. Turn into the pan and press down firmly and evenly.
  6. Bake 25 minutes.
  7. Cool completely, then chill thoroughly (I like overnight) before cutting into bars.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 303.6
Total Fat: 13.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 135.3 mg
Total Carbs: 40.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.7 g
Protein: 9.1 g


  1. okay! so now I know what the CRFA show is. That sound like my kind of even. hehe. And now I must Google "amaranth", because I don't know what that ingredient is. Ugh.

  2. Thanks for the links and I am so glad you enjoyed the bars! Next time I will have to try your version.


  3. When cooking with chia, do the seeds get gooey like they do on a chia pet?

    Weird question, I know, but just wondering


Thanks for the feedback!