Despite the fact that I watch a total of only 1.5 hours of television each week, there are indeed perks to having a sister who works for a television station. Media outlets often sponsor large events happening throughout the city. This means they get "free" sponsor tickets to use, which are conveniently up for grabs via contests.
So I wanted to go the Wellness Show, but of course I was too cheap to shell out the money for tickets. Conveniently I asked if she could enter the draw and win me tickets. Luck was with her again, and she won! Turns out the tickets were worth every dime we paid; they would have even worth every cent we would have paid had I not been so cheap and bought the tickets for real. There were tons of samples and we left quite full.
Of all the goodies we tasted, the category most represented by far was the oodles of energy and protein bar samples. Of the many we tried, I can't say any of them were decent enough to warrant me wanting to remember the name nor spend the effort to make a purchase. The textures were not very appealing, to say the least. The flavours were even more disappointing -- enticing flavours like "Cookies and Cream Delight" or "Chocolate Peppermint Stick" were overly-sweetened and artificial. I might as well have a real cookies and cream chocolate bar or chocolate peppermint patty for the same amount of calories.
Normally energy bars are not even a product I would be looking to consume. (There was the one time, prompted by a sale, that I bought a pile of Clif bars, and treated them like granola bars. Not a good idea when granola bars are one of my choice items to consume on a carb-sugar-craving-binge. Anyway, that time doesn't count! ;)
But since I was inspired by my sister to start running, I began a hunt for home made recipes for energy bars that tasted like real food to fuel my longer runs. I found success with two recipes, both quite different.
The first one is a three-grain based bar that I'll just link you to from here, because I pretty much followed the recipe, other than doubling the cocoa and eliminating the coffee since I'm just a boring hot-water drinker. Quite delicious and chewy -- and I like to chew everything, from ice cream to frozen baked goods. When I was still in high school, my mom once asked me to stop running down to the deep freeze because I was eating all her frozen muffins she was saving for later. Oops.
The second one is a fruit-and-nut bar I'll post here, because I altered about half the ingredients. You can see the original recipe here. As usual, I like to look at the broad strokes of a recipe and improvise where I can. I love this recipe because it's so simple, and you can swap out any number of adjustments to suit your taste.
Long Run Fuel Marathon Chunks
- 1 cup dried fruit (I did mostly blueberries, with a few cherries thrown in)
- 1 cup raw nuts (I used raw cashews)
- 1/2 cup nut butter (I used my all time favourite hazelnut butter, adjust for desired consistency)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-3 tbsp of liquid sweetener (I used agave, but you can use honey or maple syrup too, adjust for desired consistency)
- 1/3 cup raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Combine all (save the sunflower seeds) in a food processor until well mixed.
- Turn the mixture into a bowl and fold in the sunflower seeds.
- Remove and press into an 8X8 foil covered pan.
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Remove and cut into small chunks.
Notes and Cautions:
According to the original blogger, this can be tough work for your food processor if you use larger fruit like pitted prunes or apricots (I would imagine pulsing would help ease the work, but learn from my errors which resulted in a morgue of small appliances -- if it starts to overheat or smell burnt, just stop or risk killing it!). Smaller fruit like berries worked like a breeze.
I used my silicone baking mat to press the mixture flat after wrestling with a sticky and uneven spoon. You could replicate the same effect by pressing down on parchment paper. I've also seen some other bloggers make similar recipes by shaping the mixture into balls.
I took these for a test 12 mile run, wearing them in my pack, as a dry run for my race next week. They got a bit squooshy half way through. Next time I think I'll try freezing the chunks and see if that helps.
I'm a huge fan of berries and really quite hate prunes or apricots, so the combo I used tasted a lot like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a bar form. Super tasty! So tasty I have to restrain myself not to eat too many of these if I'm not immediately planning on going for a run. I did a rough calculation and with the ingredients I used -- these puppies pack about 175 calories per 1.5 inch square. Yikes! Great for a run, but not so good for a couch potato movie snack!
So there you have it. If you try it out, let me know what twists you added, and tell me how they turned out!