Real Food: Homemade Energy Bars!

Over the years, making homemade energy bars  has always interested me.  Reading the labels on commercially produced energy bars has been a major motivator.  What is soy protein isolate? Or mixed tocopherols? Or palm kernel solids? Generally, if I can’t purchase something at the grocery store I don’t want to want to eat it.  Thus, the search was on for a homemade energy bar recipe.

My first attempt, a couple years ago, was a black bean based energy bar. They were tasty (and won second place at the Iowa State Fair), but the texture was all wrong.  Fifteen miles in a jersey pocket and they were a gooey mess.

I did a whole lot of internet searching, trying to find recipes good enough to make and share. The recipes had to sound good (usually, that meant including chocolate), be made with ingredients easily available at Fareway and HyVee (my local grocery stores)and not have any prohibitively expensive ingredients. Also, they had to stand up to being carried in a jersey pocket during the Bike Iowa Renegade Gents Race 6.0 – a ~61 mile gravel race around Central Iowa.

Five recipes were tried, a few lessons were learned, and three recipes were deemed worth sharing.

Apricot & Cashew Energy Barsimage

1 cup dried Turkish apricots
1/2 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Line and 8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, and set aside.
  2. Pulse cashews in food processor until crumbly, place in a separate bowl.
  3. Pulse apricots in food processor until finely chopped. Add all other ingredients to the apricot mixture and process until well combined.
  4. Add the chopped cashews to the mixture and pulse until combined.
  5. Firmly press the apricot mixture into the baking pan, using the flat surface of a measuring cup to create a flat even layer (or your hand.  I found that to be a lot easier).
  6. Place pan in the freezer for one hour, then remove and cut into 8 rectangle bars (or more or less, depending on desired size).
  7. Place in an airtight container and store for up to one month in the fridge.

Recipe from Nutritionist in the Kitch.

These seemed a little oily (from the coconut oil) but they were still tasty. I would probably pack them in a bike bag, rather than a jersey pocket.

Chocolate Energy Bitesimage

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup soft dates
1-3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Place seeds in a food processor and process until finely ground. Pulse in cocoa, vanilla and salt.
  2. Add in the chopped dates and water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together nicely. Process until all ingredients are distributed evenly. (NOTE: I used dates that were somewhat dry. To make them soft, I soaked them in warm water for 20 minutes. Because of this, the dough came together well without adding any additional water.)
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Shape dough in to tablespoon-sized balls. Roll in cocoa powder or shredded coconut.
  5. Chill and enjoy!

These were quite tasty.  Three packed in a Ziploc snack size bag would make a nice treat on a bicycle ride!

Recipe from Create. Nourish. Love.

And finally, I checked out my most favorite food blogger, Kristen Porter at Iowa Girl Eats. Her recipes are always spot-on and are often my go-to for everything. A colleague suggested I try her granola bar recipe, and it did not disappoint!

Chewy Cherry Chocolate Granola Barsimage

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup pecan OR walnut halves
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey OR maple syrup
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

Instructions:image

  1. Add 1/2 cup each of almonds, pecans/walnuts and oats into a food processor.
    Process until fine (not too long or it will start to turn into nut butter!) then pour into a large bowl.
  2. Roughly chop the remaining almonds and pecans/walnuts. Do this with a knife and cutting board, rather than the food processor. Add them to the bowl.
  3. Add remaining old fashioned oats, cherries and sesame seeds, then mix well and set aside.
  4. Combine honey/maple syrup, coconut oil, salt, vanilla & almond extracs, and cinnamon in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until the mixture melts, then foams, then cook for 15 seconds longer. Pour over nut mixture and mix thoroughly to coat all ingredients.
  5. Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil, then pour in granola. Press very, very firmly with your hands to make an even layer. Top with chocolate chunks. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.
  6. Use a sharp knife to cut chilled granola bars. Wrap individually and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Recipe slightly adapted from Iowa Girl Eats.

These chewy granola bars were my favorite of the five recipes I tried. They had a good flavor and the texture seemed the best for holding up to long rides.

Five Lessons Learned

1. A bigger food processor would be helpful.  I use a 3.5 cup KitchenAid Food Chopper – and while it worked good for most recipes, there were a few times I had to stir things by hand in a bigger bowl – after the ingredients had been chopped up.  Also, be careful not to burn up your food processor!  Chopping apricots for Apricot & Casimagehew Energy Bars nearly did my food processor in.  If your food processor starts to smoke, unplug it and give it a rest!

2. Wrap homemade energy bars in aluminum foil or Ziploc snack size bags.  While they look cute in waxed paper and washi tape, they are hard to open with one hand while riding.

3. Only SOME substitutions work. Walnuts can be substituted for pecans and maple syrup will sometimes work in place of honey – but “potato flour” means potato flour. Without it, my Chocolate Chip Cookies from Feed Zone Portables were a total bust. Try substitutions if it is convenient, but don’t give up on a recipe if it flops. Baking truly is a science.

image

4. Use a scoop! I have a 1.5 tablespoon OXO scoop and it is super helpful for making energy bites (and cookies and meat balls) uniform size.

5. Buy smart! If your local grocery store has bulk bins, use them to buy exactly what you need!  Take your measuring cup to the store and buy only what you need!

Overall, making energy bars at home is completely do-able.  It’s not overly time-consuming. I didn’t do the math, but my estimation is that making energy bars costs roughly the same as purchasing quality energy bars. Knowing what’s in your energy bar is a huge advantage. Real food beats processed food every single time. Will I still buy energy food sometimes? Yes, I will.  At least until I figure out how to make my own Honey Stinger Waffles. Until then, my fuel will be a mix of homemade and purchased energy food. These three recipes are solid go-tos and will get lots of use at my house.  Hope you enjoy them too!

PrintJess Rundlett is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!

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