Thursday, February 16, 2012

Almost-Vegan Granola Bars

So it is probably no mystery that I love Pinterest (follow me!), and spend an obnoxious amount of time pinning projects and ideas that I will probably never get to . . . with one exception. Recipes! For the better part of the last year, I have been plowing through recipes that I have found through Pinterest and have found some real winners (many can attest to the awesomeness of my dark chocolate cake) and some real duds (the apple oatmeal was probably even worse the second time). The most surprising thing to come out of all of my Pinterest cooking and baking was my love of vegan recipes! (Surprising because I am neither vegan nor vegetarian.) Why? I guess because I like both the idea of cleaner eating and unexpected combinations.

Take for example, Chef Chloe's Avocado Pesto Pasta. If we are at all friends, I have probably demanded that you make this recipe. (If we're friends and I haven't mentioned it yet, consider this an order to make it right now! DO IT!!!) The pesto itself is what--6 main ingredients?--that combined make some creamy deliciousness. It boggles my mind that a couple of avocados can take the place of cheese! Maybe my mind is easily boggled? I don't know! Don't answer that! But I think 25% of why I am obsessed with making this dish is that I don't understand how all of these ingredients can come together and taste nearly identical to "regular" pesto (the other 75% of my obsession comes from it just tasting so dang good).

But anyway, as I mentioned, I am also a big fan of eating cleaner and healthier and reducing my dependence on animal products for protein and other nutrients. This explains my current love affair with quinoa, which is an amazing grain! Don't even get my started on its virtues, or we will never get to the promised granola bars recipe.

This past weekend, I went snowshoeing for the first time (TOTAL BLAST!) and in preparation I wanted to bring a snack that would be easy to eat on the go and pack a lot of needed nutrients. Naturally, I thought of granola bars. Carbohydrates from the oats and other sweet ingredients to provide a quick boost and sustained energy from the unsaturated fats in the nuts. The ingredients on pre-packaged bars are sometimes less than desirable and wouldn't necessarily have everything I wanted (like added protein), so I decided to make my own. I started with a recipe from Pinterest and then went rogue! Here are my beautiful bars and how I made them:

Food photography is hard, y'all.

Bruns' Almost-Vegan Granola Bars
Adapted from Savoring the Thyme via Pinterest

4 cups rolled oats
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup almond butter
3/4 cup peanut butter, melted
3/4 cup agave syrup
1 scoop protein powder (I used whey, hence the not so vegan-ness)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oats, chia seeds, walnuts, and raisins. Add agave and mix to combine (I used my stand mixer and beater blade). Add almond butter and melted peanut butter and mix until moistened. Add scoop of protein powder. If dough is too dry, add more nut butter or syrup. Remove beater blade and fold in chocolate chips.

At this point, you should be able to make a ball out of the dough without it crumbling. Adjust dry or wet ingredients accordingly.

Press dough in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Make sure to pack the dough down as much as possible, especially around the edges. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and then cut into bars.

Et voilĂ ! Delicious, homemade granola bars.

Now it probably seems silly to mention this after I just went through the effort of writing up the recipe, but I plan on making a few tweaks next time I make these. My beautiful bars didn't fair so well in my backpack on the snowshoeing trek the next day, and I think some sort of binding agent would have really helped them stay together better. I'm thinking some banana or pumpkin puree. Thoughts, non-existent readers???

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