Monday, August 21, 2017

DIY Protein Bars

Protein bars are a great method to carry food on the go. They can be nutrient dense, inexpensive, easy to pack, and can be customized to almost no end, with flavorings and ingredients so flexible that it can be amazing.

Unfortunately, many commercial bars taste like processed sawdust mixed with a bittering agent, and so are not much fun to eat.

I get around that problem by making my own tasty protein bars.

Basic Recipe
Protein bars are, at their core, plant or animal protein with a binder. Ideally, they are made without any raw animal products in them to maximize storage use; fairly physically robust so they can withstand storage; and have enough food value to substitute for a meal in an emergency.

The meta recipe that I follow for goes something like this:

  • Three parts Protein Powder (I prefer whey-based powder)
  • Three parts Oats
  • Two parts Milk (I like almond, but everything from cow to rice or coconut milk will work)
  • Two parts Nut butter (Nutella or similar)
  • Two parts Coconut oil
  • One part Chocolate chips (for a stiffer bar)

  1. Melt the coconut oil.
  2. Add the dry ingredients. 
  3. Mix in the milk. 
  4. Bring to a light boil. 
  5. Add the nut butter and other items.
  6. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the bars and shape them on wax paper.
  8. Put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes.
As many of you may have noticed, this is remarkably like the process for no-bake cookies, but with higher protein content and much less sugar. Oats are fairly high in protein (twice as much as wheat), various milks tend to be high in protein, and adding nuts just helps more.

Disclaimer: protein "bar" may be a bit of a misnomer. I find that when I make them at home, they end up in any number of shapes, many of them lumpy. I often use a cookie cutter on them to entice my children to eat them, so don’t feel bad if your bars don’t turn out perfectly the first time.

Nuts and or seeds can be added for additional protein and roughage. I prefer almonds, since they tend to bake well, and are a nice change from what most people eat, but a variety of nuts (I have a friend who favors macadamia) can be added to taste. I also enjoy pumpkin seeds in mine, but only if I have added chocolate as well.

Chunks of dried fruit are an excellent and tasty addition, and add easy bulk. Adding either these or nuts will help the bars to be more stiff.

Chocolate chips are very tasty, but are often best added after the mixture has been heated, to allow them to remain whole. M&M’s work especially well for this.

Beans (no, wait, seriously) ground into a flour can add bulk. Black beans work especially well, and some people like the flavor.

The major disadvantage of homemade protein bars is that they do not last as long as commercial bars in storage. There are however, several things you can do to ameliorate this.
  • Using a vacuum sealer can help immensely. The plastic will help to keep the form of the bars, and the vacuum will help keep it fresher longer.
  • Keeping them cool and out of the sun can keep the bars good for quite some time. Properly shaded and vacuum sealed bars have lasted years, and retained flavor and texture.

Good luck, and remember to practice!

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