Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars

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When I first decided to start losing weight, I thought exercising was the way to go. I have not-so-fond memories of waking up before work in the middle of the DC summer to do Insanity workouts in the 1 bedroom apartment I shared with three people. Two of us shared what would normally have been a living room, but instead had two little twin beds on opposite sides of the room. I used my little corner to do workouts so intense that I would continue sweating through my shower and all the way until I got into my air-conditioned office.

The problem with all the intense workouts , though, was that they were making me hungrier, which, when you’re trying to lose weight and restrict calories, didn’t end up working out too well. So, when I decided to get serious with the losing weight almost a year later, I switched gears and mostly focused on food. I worked out here and there, but I figured exercising would come more into play when I got to the maintenance phase. And now, after 7 months of maintaining my weight loss, I figured right.  Here I am now in week 4 of P90X3, and not only is it helping me maintain the weight loss, but I feel no signs of slowing down. As expected though, that hunger is returning.

Enter: these energy bars. I’m sure more than a few of you buy  the energy bars found at your grocery store. Not all energy bars are created equal though, and most of them contain a lot of preservatives, sugar, or other unrecognizable ingredients. For awhile, on the recommendation of a friend, I was eating these Thunderbird Energetica bars, which unlike many other bars, used all whole-food ingredients, natural sugars, and no grains.  They weren’t cheap though.

So, I decided to simplify things and make my own, using the same concept. It’s a pretty foolproof recipe: 1 cup nuts, 1 cup dried fruit, and 3/4 cup dates. The dates act as both a binder and a sweetener. The berries and dates give you the complex carbs you need before an intense workout, and the nuts give you some lasting protein and fat. No grains, no added sugar, no unpronounceable ingredients. Win-win if you ask me.

Homemade Energy Bars
Serves 9

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Ingredients:

1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
Parchment paper, for lining
Plastic wrap, for molding
NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!

Directions:

1.  If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
IMG_71492. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will go from this:
IMG_7150To this:
IMG_7151And eventually get here:
IMG_7152Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck. Stop when you get to the ball shape above, about 10 minutes.
3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
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4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball.  Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8×8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
IMG_71544. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
IMG_71565. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
IMG_71576. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
IMG_71587. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

 

 

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ¾ cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
  • Parchment paper, for lining
  • Plastic wrap, for molding
  • NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!
Directions
  1. If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will start with small bits and pieces of nuts and fruit, to more paste-like and, finally, to a big ball. Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck.
  3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
  4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball. Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8x8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
  5. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
  6. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
  7. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
  8. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

If the wildflowers on the side of the road are any indication, spring is finally upon us here in Austin. Since spring makes me think of Easter and Easter makes me think of eggs, I thought I’d share with you my newest, favorite method for making eggs: Tong Zi Dan (aka Virgin Boy Eggs). The method is a little unorthodox, but the results are amazing! Check it out at Nom Nom Paleo!

After a few days of thinking about breakfast from a more global and philosophical perspective, the assignments for Days 4 & 5 were to put your ideas into practice–choose one recipe from the five you chose on Day 3, do your grocery shopping for it, and then actually make it!

I typically go grocery shopping 2-4 times a week, because that helps me manage waste better, so I had already been planning on going yesterday.  Since Fridays are my days off, I decided to be slightly ambitious and make TWO of the five recipes I chose: the avocado pudding and the pumpkin granola.  I did this mostly because I knew the granola would be a big batch and could be one of the “staples” I generally keep around the house, and I also knew that the avocado pudding recipe called for something crunchy on top, so birds, meet stone.

The upside to cooking so often is that I pretty much know exactly what I have on hand in my kitchen.   Every time I get a new recipe, I go down the ingredients list and mentally check off what I already have, including any substitutions I could make, and then add whatever I still need to the Out of Milk app that Mr. Little Fish and I share.  For the avocado recipe, all I needed was avocado, as I decided I would use my homemade almond milk instead of dairy milk, and for the granola, all I need to buy was sunflower seeds!  It’s one of my small pleasures in life when I already have most of the things on the list!

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Because I knew that I would have time this morning, I decided not to prep anything ahead of time, but if this had been a normal weeknight, I would have made the granola before bed.  The things I changed in the recipe were that I only used 1 tbsp of honey instead of 2 tbsp maple syrup, because a) I didn’t want to buy maple syrup and b) the pumpkin seeds I used were these praline ones from my Naturebox and so were already sweetened.  I also only had unsweetened coconut flakes, as opposed to shredded coconut, so I threw them into the food processor with the other ingredients to pulse.  Lastly, I didn’t have pumpkin pie spice so I used 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp ginger.

IMG_6970I would make this granola again just for the smell of pumpkin pie wafting through my house!  Luckily, it tasted as good as it smelled, so I packaged it up in a glass container and now have homemade granola on hand!  Also the best part? It’s grain free and nut free (and could be vegan if you used the maple syrup as originally called for!)!

IMG_6976Of course, I did manage to throw some on my avocado pudding before putting it away, and I have to say that this was a very satisfying breakfast!  The avocado pudding is apparently a Brazilian-inspired dish, and it does indeed remind me of warm sand and palm trees.  The honey added just the right amount of sweet without overwhelming the avocado flavor.  Also, I always enjoy a recipe that allows me to use my immersion blender!  I am looking forward to making this breakfast again next week (or maybe even this weekend, as I feel like this is sort of thing I could find myself craving!).

Light yet filling!

Light yet filling!

How has your breakfast planning been going?  Will you be trying anything new this weekend?

Pear and Hazelnut (Pearzelnut?) Muffins

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***NEW:  I have added a feature to posts where you can print the recipe without any pictures or any blog post!  Just scroll to the bottom and hit “Print” on the recipe card!***

On Sunday morning, I decided that I would make muffins for breakfast this week. My kitchen, however, did not like my plans and conspired against me. Thus, during the course of making these muffins, I dropped the cupcake liners in my bowl of sifting almond milk, knocked cream tartar out of the cupboard and everywhere onto the floor, took the sugar out of the pantry only to discover it had a massive hole on the bottom, and inexplicably carved a chunk of skin out of my index finger (the same finger which had recently suffered two paper cuts!).

My guess is that the Football Gods were smiting me for not caring even a little bit that it was Superbowl Sunday. I decided that the kitchen’s punishment for putting me through such an ordeal was to get deep, deep cleaned, so that’s how I spent my Sunday afternoon instead of watching football.  It was time well-spent, although it might be debatable who came out the loser in the Kitchen v. Gwen match.

What didn’t come out a loser, however, were these muffins.  Once I was finally able to get my act together, I soothed my bruised ego by sneaking some licks of the batter spoon (yes, raw egg and all–I’m building immunities!) and filling my house with the aroma of toasted hazelnut and sweet, sweet muffins. These are, of course, not Paleo, but after some underwhelming attempts at grain-free baking, I’ve decided that if I want to do baked goods, I will embrace flour (and not the Paleo-flour substitutes.  Normal flour.  I feel like it kind of defeats the purpose to go out of your way to buy expensive, Paleo-friendly ingredients to make treats out of.  Embrace the treats or don’t have them at all is kind of my philosophy.  Perhaps better known as “go big or go home.”).  Thus, my solution has been to do the weekly breakfast rotations , balancing an intermittent grain fix with other whole food breakfasts.  This works for me, but your mileage may vary, so, again, pay attention to your body.

To that end, I made several substitutions to put these muffins more squarely into “breakfast,” rather than “dessert,” but really, they work either way.  I’ve probably mentioned before that most recipes for me can always do with less sugar.  Now, I don’t hate myself, so I don’t ever completely take it out, but, as a rule, I go to the next smallest cup size I have (ie if the recipe calls for 1/2 cup, I’ll round down to 1/3).  I also halved the amount of butter, substituting coconut oil for the remaining amount.  Instead of buttermilk, I increased the protein content of the muffin by using equal parts Greek yogurt and almond milk.  I switched the respective amounts of flour so that it was majority whole wheat.  I only used 1/3 cup of rolled oats because that’s all I had in the pantry.  And, lastly, I used fewer chocolate chips so that I could feel better about eating them for breakfast.

Pear and Hazelnut Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Whole-Grain Mornings
Serves 13 (I don’t know how I got that number, but they were quite large!)

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Ingredients:

2 medium pears
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

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Directions:

1.  Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, put the butter and the coconut oil into a shallow dish, and microwave for 20-30 seconds until melted.  Remove from microwave and put on counter to cool.
2.  Line a muffin tin with muffin papers or butter the cups.
3.  Peel and core your pears.  I use this inexpensive apple corer.  Place your boxed grater in a large bowl, and use the large holes to grate the pear (be careful with your fingers!).  This will yield somewhere between 1-1.5 cups of shredded pear.
4.  Take the box grater out, and add the butter and oil mixture, sugar, Greek yogurt, almond milk, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
5.  In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients:  the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, all but 1/2 cup of the chopped hazelnuts, and the chocolate chips.

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6.  Pour the dry ingredients into the bigger bowl with the wet ingredients, and gently fold it together using a spatula to scrape down the sides.  You want to mix only until just combined (which for me meant until I didn’t see any dry flour anymore), and try not to over-mix.

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7.  Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with the mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts.

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8.  Place the muffins in the oven, and immediately reduce the heat of the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown, the hazelnuts are fragrant, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then remove them to a cooling rack.  Serve warm with a dab of butter or by themselves!

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Pear and Hazelnut (Pearzelnut?) Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 13
Ingredients
  • 2 medium pears
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup almond milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped (you can use your food processor for this!)
  • ⅓ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. After, put the butter and the coconut oil into a shallow dish, and microwave for 20-30 seconds until melted. Remove from microwave and put on counter to cool.
  2. Line a muffin tin with muffin papers or butter the cups.
  3. Peel and core your pears. I use this inexpensive apple corer. Place your boxed grater in a large bowl, and use the large holes to grate the pear (be careful with your fingers!). This will yield somewhere between 1-1.5 cups of shredded pair. Use all or less depending on your preference.
  4. Take the box grater out, and add the butter and oil mixture, sugar, Greek yogurt, almond milk, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients: the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, all but ½ cup of the chopped hazelnuts, and the chocolate chips.
  6. Pour the dry ingredients into the bigger bowl with the wet ingredients, and gently fold it together using a spatula to scrape down the sides. You want to mix only until just combined (which for me meant until I didn't see any dry flour anymore), and try not to over-mix.
  7. Fill the muffin cups nearly to the top with the mixture and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of hazelnuts.
  8. Place the muffins in the oven, and then immediately reduce the heat of the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown, the hazelnuts are fragrant, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then remove them to a cooling rack. Serve warm with a dab of butter or by themselves!
Notes
If you can't find pre-toasted hazelnuts, I just put raw hazelnuts in my toaster oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. This has the added benefit of making the skins fairly easy to remove by rubbing the cooled nuts between your hands.