chewy chocolaty peanut-buttery protein bars

010I’m really not sure why I’ve always been so intimidated by baking, but I have. And while I fully believe in conquering the things in life that hold us back, for some reason I haven’t felt the need to apply that notion to this area of my life yet. Maybe it’s because, well, not to down-play it or anything, but it’s just baking. Just baking?! I don’t think I really mean that. After all, what could be better than a fresh, buttery croissant right out of the oven… or a slice of indulgently rich chocolate cake… or heck, even a hot and gooey glazed donut? There clearly is something magical that happens when flour is mixed with some combination of sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. The joy is most certainly not lost on me.

This does seem like something I need to tackle at some point. If for no other reason than to open up an entirely new world of food, which sounds quite motivating. I just haven’t ventured there yet. One step at a time I suppose. And while I’m openly sharing my apparent struggle over this issue, I may as well get to the heart of the matter. I think I carry the belief that baked goods, as delicious as they may be, just aren’t as healthy. I also know that I can’t resist breads, cookies, or sweets in general with much discipline (if there’s chocolate involved, it’s just over), so making them is almost like setting a diet trap for myself. But I think that’s being pretty small minded, not something I aspire to be. So rather than close myself off to an entire method of cooking, and basically an entire food group, maybe it’s time I prove myself wrong and find a way to make healthy versions.

Consider these no-bake protein bars my very first step into the world of baking – irony intended – but hey, I used flour; it’s a start. The hemp seeds were a bit of a splurge, but they are loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and give a nice nutty flavor and texture. Sunflower seeds would probably work just as well, and save a few bucks. The bars are really everything you could want… chewy, crunchy, salty-sweet, additive-free and packed with protein. Let’s just say, I made them last night, and I’m down to one. I’ll be sad to see it go.

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(Recipe adapted from oh she glows)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups whole grain oat flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup Garden of Life RAW protein powder (or powder of your choosing, unflavored is best)

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp chocolate covered hemp seeds (or plain hemp seeds for vegan)

1/2 cup rice based cereal (I used Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla and crushed up into pieces)

1/2 cup all natural peanut butter

1/2 cup agave syrup sweetener

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp mini dark chocolate morsels (for vegan, use vegan brand chocolate)

1 tbsp coconut oil

Steps:

1. Use an 8 x 8 pan, lined with parchment paper

2. Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl:  flour, protein powder, 1/4 cup hemp seeds, cereal, and salt

3. Add in peanut butter, agave syrup, and vanilla, mix to combine – can splash in a little water or almond milk if too dry

4. Press down into pan then put in freezer

5. Melt chocolate chips with coconut oil in small sauce pan over low heat, careful not to burn

6. Cut frozen dough into bars, drizzle with melted chocolate and top with remaining hemp seeds

7. Place back in freezer to set, keep stored in freezer (bars soften as they get warmer)

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