High energy bars loaded with healthy flavor

Like anyone who works out a lot, I love snacks. My natural inclination runs to trail mix and energy bars. Both, however, when purchased at normal stores are both expensive and pretty bad for you. The really good-for-you options are smaller companies where you have to order and those are even more expensive.

Still, choose these over the massive companies, because there are great ones out there, like Oregon-based Picky Bars, for example.

With the Test Kitchen’s recent post-holiday bent toward healthier items, we looked to make our own energy bars with carefully chosen, affordable ingredients. Because of my previously explained Cancer-phobia, I wanted these packed with free-radical fighting foods like sunflower seeds and cranberries.

We landed on a loaded creation that blew our minds with flavor, texture and nutrition. We consider this a “pre-work-out” bar because it’s high in carbs and fat that provide great fuel to burn. But unlike many bars, its absolutely loaded with protein (a whopping 25 grams).

Note: Midway through this recipe you will get concerned that they aren’t coming together. It will look like this:

IMG_20140222_135326

But don’t worry. If you get them too moist they become SOO dense. This lightness now will keep them manageable at the end. They are just so loaded with goodness that they compact into chewy bars once they are finished.

For a post-workout, or evening energy bar, we have an old peanut butter standby that is virtually indestructible once its made and much lower in carbs. We take it on backpacking trips to make sure we have the protein we need.  We have a quick recipe for that at the end of this one, so scan down past the nutrition data if you’re so inclined.

There… the fine print out of the way, let’s get on with them already…

This we call the “Everything Energy Bar.” Try it out for yourself! 

Everything Energy Bar

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Prepare 8×8 baking dish lightly with grapeseed oil. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together
  3. In stand mixer combine peanut butter, eggs, oil, brown sugar and vanilla.
  4. Mix together the dry and wet. The batter will be crumbly.
  5. Dump in the various goodies (berries, nuts, etc…. optional coconut flakes, because I love raw coconut).
  6. Work the batter through your fingers to combine thoroughly. If necessary, use one more tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Form into a sort of dough ball.
  7. Smoosh lightly into the pan to form up, but not totally smash into the bottom of it. Go for a balance between combined but not smashed. Press the edges a bit to firm them up around the pan.
  8. Bake for… (honestly I keep forgetting to time it, but I think it was 18 minutes. You should trust me anyway… check them and when your tester comes out MOSTLY clean, your done. They’ll finish cooking in the pan.
  9. Melt chocolate and drizzle in stripes diagonally across the top of the bars.
  10. Let cool for 30 minutes. (You’ll be worried they are too airy and potentially even crumbly, but don’t fuss).
  11. Cover with cling wrap and put in fridge overnight or for a couple of hours to thoroughly cool.
  12. Take out and cut into bars, wrap individually and store in airtight container.

9 Servings – Nutrition data by sparkpeople.com! very easy to use. Try it.

Amount Per Serving
  Calories 454.2
  Total Fat 17.7 g
  Saturated Fat 3.1 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 4.0 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.3 g
  Cholesterol 0.0 mg
  Sodium 213.5 mg
  Potassium 406.4 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 56.0 g
  Dietary Fiber 7.3 g
  Sugars 15.7 g
  Protein 24.9 g

OK… Our go-to, work-horse Peanut Butter energy bar revises the old Peanut Butter Smoosh Balance bar before it got all big and fancy and store bought. This is a take-off from the old-school folks who figured out the 40/30/30 (carb/protient/fat) diet is a pretty good way to go (and still is, though I hate how commercial the “Balance Diet” has become, and won’t buy their products.

Anyway, this one is simple, and I took out a bunch of the honey to keep the sugar content low. The last batch of these I made for a backpacking trip in November and finished off the last of the bag in January. They keep forever … well not like Twinkie forever, but you get my meaning.

Peanut Butter Smoosh Energy Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup Effin Artist peanut butter
  • 1 cup whey protein
  • 1/2 cup (or less, just enough to make all this stuff stick) of honey.
  • 1 tsp salt
(add dried fruit if you want as it comes together, or mix in some dark chocolate to make them even more flavorful. You can do about anything with this base mix).
Instructions:
  1. Smoosh it together until it forms a cohesive blob.
  2. Line wax paper on a 8×8 cake pan and press the bars into the pan flat.
  3. Allow to set for an hour or two.
  4. Slice into bars or transfer to a freezer bag as a whole, then you just rip off a chunk when needed.
A couple of notes about this nutrition data. I left it at nine servings so you can compare the nutrition of this bar and the one above, but frankly, you never eat that big of a serving of this bar. It’s too dense and filling. I’d say realistically its 18 servings.  But as you can see the carbs are cut in half and the balanced protein/fat/carb ratio comes through. I’ve never liked how much honey ramps up the grams of sugars, but haven’t come up with another virtually un-spoilable ingredient that can form these together. Any ideas? I’d love it because these don’t really need the honey to be good. Any way, read on and enjoy:9 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 519.8
  Total Fat 30.2 g
  Saturated Fat 5.3 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g
  Cholesterol 53.8 mg
  Sodium 303.1 mg
  Potassium 162.3 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 28.7 g
  Dietary Fiber 4.0 g
  Sugars 18.9 g
  Protein 30.4 g
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