Protein Granola Bars

I think I may have a bar obsession. I think that having protein, natural fruit sugars and even veggies in a hand held granola- breakfast bar is just about the most convenient food for me. Being constantly busy taking care of my family ie husband, dog and 5 year old, keeps me looking for the most healthy convenient food I can get my hands on. And if it packs a punch of protein, well that’s all the better. That means whatever sugar is infused into it will not only be paired with a healthy carb like most bars are, I get some protein to go with it. Here’s to some long lasting energy!

I swear that before I moved to the lost coast, I tried a whole lot of bars from whole foods and my local health food markets. I’ve taste tested quite a few that I developed a little bit of a spoiled taste for them. But selfishly Getting Lara bars and chocolate veggie bars everyday for a snack at jr college, was a big dent on the food stamps and that’s family food money.

Once I moved to Fort Bragg, CA, I stopped buying convenient food. Not that I couldn’t afford it, its just that I couldn’t even dare be selfish with the food stamps and buy single packaged food that only I liked. So, I started buying the ingredients that I saw inside the granola bars and breakfast bars that I enjoyed. Gluten free flour, dried fruit,honey,almond butter, bananas, dates…even my favorite dried cereals.. this is where the fun began.

I started doing research on making homemade granola bars. Who would have thought that simply brown sugar, peanut butter and cereal would be an amazing granola bar.

I tried it many different ways and came to find that brown sugar is way too dense of a sugar to be working with.10575320_567413930037463_3123956352662254093_o 10628888_611317425647113_6284684981733403910_o 10697163_594644247314431_5571454421522645772_o

I tried working with honey and maple syrup instead. Those are interesting with a nut butter, and dried cereal and even fresh fruit.

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After a while my taste buds could detect the high amounts of sugar in the granola bars and it was making me sick, I missed the veggie bars and fruit bars. The natural sugar in the dried fruit was a perfect energy kick for the middle of my day and working and taking care of business. Making sugary syrupy granola bars at home are great if I am trying to replace the Quaker Oats sugary granola bars they sell in the store in the kids section, but not for my house.. we don’t eat those things.

So I stopped making them. I started to realize that it wasn’t that I was missing anything in my bars.. it was I was putting too much.. so I stopped adding sugar or syrup. And I started using only exclusively fruit and nuts. Granted Lara bars are easy to make if you have a high speed blender or food processor and they are plenty of copycat Lara bar recipes out there.. I found a ton here.

http://wellnessmama.com/1047/energy-bars/

http://www.creativesimplelife.com/simple-homemade-larabars/

http://leitesculinaria.com/88638/recipes-homemade-larabars.html

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/07/01/recipe-homemade-larabars-4-ways-including-nut-free/

The biggest thing that I had trouble with in those various recipes was weather or not to add water to your dried fruit paste before you make it into a bar.. the wetter your dried fruit, the wetter the bar, and I hate having to freeze a granola bar, or even keep it wrapped up and cold.. I just want a fruity yummy veggie bar.. that you can hold in your hand without it falling apart and it chewy and sweet without sugar..

cereal oatless bars
cereal oatless bars
too sticky
too sticky
too wet
too wet

I found the answer to my prayers here,.. it wasn’t a recipe its a formula. And the formula works.

http://www.nomeatathlete.com/homemade-energy-bar-recipe/

http://www.nomeatathlete.com/homemade-granola-bars/

It turned out the answer to the bar I am looking for is called a protein bar and people make them before they go to work out, with protein powders and even kelp powder to add minerals and vitamins. I realized what I wanted was definitely not a granola bar, its a protein packed breakfast-workout bar that is basically a meal replacement, when you really need it. I found some recipes that even have hidden protein like white beans and almond butter…

I started to make more protein bars that resembled blonde brownies but tasted like veggie bars.. here are some examples..

cocoa fruit bars
cocoa fruit bars
banana bars
banana bars
pumpkin bars
pumpkin bars

Conclusion:

I think that the best way to make protein bars now are without syrup, or sugar and using fruit sweeteners such as banana and dates and raisins and other dried fruit. Brown sugar is for sure a cop out when it comes to trying to make a granola bar,…not the most healthy choice but it works well. If your willing to learn the formula for protein work out bars and tweak it yourself.. you will thank me in the long run.

Because you never know when your too busy to cook, and or are going to be hungry while your out. And no one wants to even think about the option of fast food for convenience anymore, so make your own replacement meal bar and formulate your favorite kind for on the run.

cocoa cereal bar with coffee
cocoa cereal bar with coffee
oat bar with apple butter spread
oat bar with apple butter spread
oat-banana bar frosted with cranberrys and walnuts
oat-banana bar frosted with cranberrys and walnuts

I have also found some interesting baked oat bars and or cakes that qualify my criteria..and I will try and keep these recipe list updated as I go.. please feel free to comment with more recipe links if you have some similar..

http://www.nutritionistinthekitch.com/2013/09/21/vegan-pumpkin-pie-energy-bars-gluten-free-protein-addition-optional/

http://thefitchen.com/2014/02/26/no-bake-gluten-free-and-vegan-proteinbars/

http://www.runningwithspoons.com/2014/01/07/soft-and-chewy-protein-granola-bars/

http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/2012/07/oil-free-carrot-cake-proteinbars/

http://cleaneatingchelsey.com/2011/10/11/chewy-pumpkin-spice-granolabars/

http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/08/soft-chewy-sugar-free-baked-granolabars/

http://www.sugarfreemom.com/recipes/no-bake-chewy-cocoa-granolabars-refined-sugar-gluten-nut-free/

http://minimalistbaker.com/super-seedy-granolabars/

http://www.lovefoodeat.com/beet-date-and-fig-cake-bars-veg

http://noshingwiththenolands.com/playground-granolabars-sundaysupper/

Naturally Sweet

I like to bake. I mean I like to bake a whole hell of a lot,… you start to realize after a whole lot of baking that creaming that butter and sugar…well it adds up the calories, and well,..really we shouldn’t consume processed sugar. So after all the perfectly gluten and sugary chocolate chip cookies were made and I started to even buy those awesomely sweet organic frozen cookies at whole foods,.. I really got some weight to prove that I was eating all that butter and sugar. Oh no.. =( And even after trying all the best cookies that I could make or buy with sugar, I still never wanted to give my son even more than a bite..who wants just a bite..that’s cruelty, I mean I know I want to eat the whole cookie bag of Newman O’s sometimes and I felt the kids pain. So I did what I thought a regular Bakaholic would do, get the research done. I found that the following sugar-butter replacements are ideal when cooking for a toddler, young child, or even adult,..cause ya know, you always want more than one cookie,.. this way you wont get too fat.. I hope. And you don’t have to feel guilty about eating sugar and butter because you will not be. The first alternative to sugar would be the obvious..

  • Syrups. But I personally think that some syrups like agave, maple and simple sweeteners do not cream like sugar and butter do and some have more sugar content than sugar,.. so no thanks.
  • Honey is great for sugar alternative, but you need to be careful how much you put, or it gets a little overwhelming like maple.10548750_567534586692064_5158728669674491087_o

But if you are making sugar free granola bars nothing works better then honey or maple and some peanut butter but that’s another post.

  • Date sugar and Date Syrup are my first choice. Its consistency is perfect, date syrup for more brown sugar and butter. Date sugar creams relatively well with shortening or coconut butter.
  • Bananas. Bananas replace sugar and oil. Mash them up and use them like you would creamed sugar and butter.
  • Applesauce is normally already sweetened. You can use applesauce to replace butter and sugar in some recipes. If you are using unsweetened applesauce for butter replacement, be sure to use something else with it for sugar like some date syrup or mashed banana.
  • Dried Fruit is sweeter when cooked or soaked, and mixed into baking batter.1795327_594643097314546_2194964751863180637_o

To achieve the sweetest baking try combining banana, raisin, and date paste…different amounts of each will achieve different results.

  • Coconut sugar is used by some bakers as alternative sugar, but I have personally not used this yet.

Here are some examples of naturally sweetened baked goods I have tried. Some are even gluten free.

banana scone
banana scone
chia applesauce blueberry pie
chia applesauce blueberry pie
banana oat flax bites
banana oat flax bites
banana flax cake
banana flax cake
applesauce date oat bars
applesauce date oat bars
banana maple oat flax bars
banana maple oat flax bars
prune paste bars
prune paste bars
prune date filled cookies
prune date filled cookies
date paste pinwheels
date paste pinwheels

If you have any questions feel free to email me. Or ask my best cooking friend “google” for help. Always can find some interesting SF DF GF results there (that’s sugar free dairy free, gluten free..b.t.w).