Meet your new favorite homemade chocolate power bars! Here's why you will want to make these:
*Chocolate! (real cocoa powder and (optional) bittersweet chocolate!)
*Good amount of protein (hard to accomplish in homemade bars without adding fake-o powders)
*No added sugar
*No nuts or soy
*Extremely fast to make
*Extremely easy to make
*Super-Nutritious (omega-3 fatty acids, high in antioxidants, high fiber, good source of protein)
Do I have your attention?
It's no secret that I like to dabble in the making of homemade protein and energy bars. Given that I workout like a maniac and am always hungry makes power bars an indispensable part of my daily diet. Additionally, my weight-lifting, English professing husband likes to eat them post-workout or pre-class, and Nick-Nack thinks Lara Bars are almost as good as candy. But the high cost and/or whack-o ingredients of so many ready-made bars makes me crazy.
I've tackled homemade versions of Lara Bars and Clif Bars with success, but protein bars are tricky. How to get a decent amount of protein without the high cost and artificial of flavored protein powders?
The answer was in my pantry: Black Beans. I know, I know, you've likely seen one of the many black bean brownie recipes floating around the web. You may have tried them. The experience was likely followed by disappointment, nausea, and a walk to the garbage disposal. I've made one or two edible versions, but they were not worth making again: they looked great, but tasted dreadful. The texture is particularly off, and I think the problem is the baking of the beans, which yields a leaden consistency reminiscent of modeling clay.
With that in mind, the solution presented itself: nix the baking. My favorite homemade energy bars are Lara bars, which are simply molded from fruits and nuts. Why not do the same with the black bean mixture. I grabbed the food processor and beans and set to work.
Unsweetened cocoa powder was a must; in went 1/2 cup Next up sweetness: I considered honey or agave, but went instead with some very ripe banana, raisins (any dried fruit will work), and stevia-based sweetener (e.g. PureVia or Truvia). The banana also adds moisture to the recipe.
To give the bars texture, I turned to two of my favorite "fillers": ground flaxseeds and toasted wheat germ. Each adds some protein as well as fiber and toasty flavor. I opted against nuts, since they are pricey, and also to make these bars accessible to those with nut allergies (such as my sister). If you anted to add more protein and texture, though, you could knead in some chopped ones to the finished "dough".
Finally, added flavor: a hefty dose of vanilla and an optional topping of bittersweet chocolate. You can certainly skip the chocolate, but it's only a teeny tiny bit and it elevates the bars from very, very good to great in one fell swoop.
Making a gluten-free version of the bars was simple: I used finely ground gluten-free oats in place of the wheat germ. By replacing the wheat germ with oats, these bars become allergy free. Whoo-hoo! Bob's Red Mill makes gluten -free oats (these are the easiest to find in stores and via mail-order).
Simply grind about 1/2 cup whole GF oats in the food processor before you add the other ingredients. Second, check on the label to make sure your vanilla is GF (McCormick's Vanilla, for example, is easy to find and gluten free--labeled so on all of their packaging). Finally, if adding the chocolate, use GF chocolate chips. Enjoy Life makes some very tasty chips, but also check the packaging of other brands: More and more brands are labeling their products to indicate that they are gluten-free, so check the packaging.
A few notes about the ingredients:
(1) Unseasoned Black Beans: by "unseasoned" beans, I simply mean avoid beans seasoned with chili powder, jalapenos, etc. I don't mean salt-free. You'll rinse away most of the salt when you rinse the beans, and the little bit of salt is need to bring out the flavor of the chocolate
(2) Wheat Germ: You can use raw wheat germ, but I would toast it in the oven for a few minutes. The toasted flavor adds a lot to the bars
(3) Ground Flaxseeds: If you are new to flaxseeds, you can easily find the pre-ground ones in most grocery stores these days, so no need to grind them yourself!
(4) Banana: The riper your banana, the sweeter it will be, so save those almost black ones for these bars! (see my note in recipe below about using pumpkin in place of banana)
(5) Vegan Chocolate Chips: if you are interested in keeping these completely vegan, double check the ingredients list of your chips: most bittersweet (not semisweet) chocolate chips are dairy free, or you can also find vegan chocolate chips (e.g., Sunspire) in the health food section of the supermarket
(6) Stevia-Based Sweetener: I don't like the taste of pure stevia; I prefer the stevia-xylitol blends, such as Truvia (i know, they sound artificial, but they are not). But if you like pure stevia, you can certainly use it here.
Chocolate Black Bean Power Bars (No-Bake)
Nutrition: Using Nutrition Data calculator, 1/8th of the recipe (1 bar) has 161 calories, 8.5 grams protein, 8.3 grams fiber, an 6.8 grams of sugar.
1 15-oz can unseasoned black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup mashed, very ripe banana (about 1 medium) (see note below about using pumpkin--even better!)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/3 cup (packed) raisins
2 tsp vanilla extract
9 packets stevia-blend powder packets (e.g. TruVia or PureVia)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (e.g., Kretschmer brand) (see my Gluten-Free Option below!)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
Optional: 2 tbsp bittersweet chocolate chips
Process the beans, banana, cocoa powder, raisins, vanilla, and stevia in a food processor until very smooth. Add the wheat germ and flaxseed. Pulse until mixture is well-blended and comes together to form a dough. Transfer mixture to a cutting board. Shape into a log and cut into 8 equal pieces.
Variation: Pumpkin Dried Cranberry
Ok, this is an update (adding a day after my original post). I was suddenly inspired to try one of my very favorite ingredients, pumpkin, in place of the banana in the recipe. I also used dried cranberries in place of the raisins. This is now my favorite version! You'll love it, it's even better than the original, the pumpkin is perfect.
Variation: Gluten-Free/ Allergy-Free Chocolate Black Bean Power Bars
Prepare recipe as directed, but replace the wheat germ with 1/2 cup finely ground oats. To make the oats, grind about 1/2 cup GF rolled oats in the food processor before adding the other ingredients. Use gluten-free vanilla and gluten-free chocolate chips.
Storage: Individually wrap bars in wax paper, then place in zipper top plastic bag. Store in refrigerator 3 days, or ffreeze up to 1 month (I prefer the freezer; they defrost in about 30 minutes t room temperature).
Make Power Truffles: Prepare as directed. Cut one (or more) bar into 8 equal pieces; rollinto balls. Leave plan or dollop with a bit of melted chocolate.
Optional Chocolate Topping:
If desired, place the chocolate chips in a sandwich size plastic bag (do not seal). Microwave on HIGH 1-2 minutes, stopping to squeeze occasionally, until melted. Push melted chocolate towards one corner of bag. Snip off small tip at the corner and pipe chocolate over bars. Chill about 15 minutes to set chocolate. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in a sealed plastic storage bag. Makes 8 bars.