Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm full of energy... bars

I recently picked up Thrive, by Brendan Brazier, which amounts to a vegan approach to eating for endurance sports. I have no desire to become a vegan, but some of the recipes intrigued me as well as his thoughts on eating in a way that puts less stress on your body.

I was most interested in his energy bar recipes, of which I've made six batches in just over a week. Some were success. Others... still edible, but bordering on gross in terms of both taste and consistency. This is coming from a guy who's go-to meal in my first few years out of college was canned tuna, rice and olive oil. I still look back fondly on that dinner/lunch/sometimes breakfast and even sneak it in every so often when Hannah is working late.

Anyway, energy bars.

Who knew they were so easy yet so much of a PITA to make?
- Ingredients required: Not much, just some dates, nuts, protein powder, seeds and ground flaxseed. Depending on the recipe and variation, you may also need fruit, chocolate, cacao and some more exotic ingredients (popped amaranth?).
- Tools/appliances required: Again, not much, just a food processor, spatula and plastic wrap
- Patience required: More than you can imagine, at least for the first few batches.

For my initial trials, I was successful in terms of taste because I followed the recipes exactly. But they had the texture of raw cookie dough, so you can imagine the difficulty of eating one while riding a bike.

My next batch was more solid, but tasted awful. I tried increasing the amount of protein powder to soak up some of the moisture. Ugh, that was a mistake. However, if you need a homemade recipe for something to "clean out" your system, let me know.

I found some measure of success by increasing the amount of dates and ground flaxseed and by baking the bars at low heat to remove some of the moisture. Since these are supposed to be raw though, I may be missing the point.

I finally discovered that the secret isn't necessarily in the ingredients, but in the forming of the bars themselves. Originally I had been trying to make them into PowerBar sized shapes: long and flat. Then it occurred to me: Clif Bars are pretty thick. And Lara Bars (made mostly with dates, just like mine!) are significantly thicker. So, some mashing and shaping later, I found success:
And they're good. I'm not sure they'll replace all the store-bought bars for long training rides when it gets in the high 90s, but they are a good addition, and they're definitely healthier than the big name energy bars. Since they're mostly fruit, nuts and seeds, they make a fine snack too.

And yes, that's hemp protein in the background of that picture. That's what the recipes in the book call for. I don't know that it's absolutely necessary or if it's because of the vegan approach. I do know that it was large quantities of regular vanilla whey protein powder that made one my batches gross.

Interesting fact: it's illegal to grow hemp in the US, because the government is afraid everyone would make lots of protein powder. But it's a-okay in Canada. The stuff I have is from Vancouver, by way of the local grocery store.

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