In search of healthy and fun meals to feed my family, with an eye toward sustainable living.

Here you'll find recipes & ramblings about keeping my family fed with what's available in Alaska between local produce, a little bit of wild harvest, and the modern grocery store.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The search continues for backpacking "Energy Bars"

I dislike the term "Energy Bar" -- it conjures too many commercial images, everything from dieting to body-building, and many are not much more than glorified "Candy Bars". What I'm looking for is a basic energy bar that's good for you, mostly, as in providing some good nutrition without a whole lot of processed food, and does not cost an arm and a leg -- the solution: MAKE MY OWN.

So my search for the perfect home-made backpacking energy bars continues (see previous post). Not knowing what to call these in the first place ("Granola Bar" dates me back to my granola days), I did a little research on Google, and started to learn some lingo:


Meal Replacement Bar Rather than a quick burst of energy during prolonged workouts, meal replacement bars are designed more for dieting and weight loss. They are meant to provide the complete nutrition of a lunch or breakfast and to fill you up. Nutribars and Balance bars are two examples of energy bars designed to replace, rather than supplement, a meal. Each of these bars provides calories from carbs, proteins and fats in proportions that sate hunger.

Protein Bars Some energy bars, such as protein bars, are designed to help you gain muscle mass. These bars attempt to cram as much protein as possible for recovery from strenuous workouts. Pure Protein bars and most Met-Rx bars fit into this category.

Endurance Bars Endurance bars are primarily designed to be eaten before a long workout. They typically have a higher proportion of carbohydrates to provide complex, non-sugary energy that is digested over a long period of time. The most well-known endurance bars include PowerBar and Honey Stinger Bars.

Activity Bars Similar to endurance bars, activity bars focus on prolonging energy. However, they tend to focus on all-day outdoor activities that require both energy and some meal-replacement nutritional features. Clif Bar is perhaps the most prevalent bar in this category. Outdoor bars, Clif Bar included, often focus on organic ingredients and have crunchier, more granola, textures.

Organic Bars There are a new wave of energy bars that focus largely on providing energy in as natural a method as possible. Organic bars reject artificial sweeteners and inserted protein, preferring to have a compact load of simple ingredients. Larabar is particularly popular, with an ingredient list that typically includes only a few items and never adds protein, gluten or soy.

Back to why I' m searching for energy bar recipes. I make them to send to my daughter, who's currently some 700 miles into through-hiking the PCT from Mexico to Canada (for more about that crazy adventure, see my other blog, Borealkraut).

My daughter mentioned a couple of brandnames she likes: Larabar, KIND, Lunabar. She's loo king for something to replace breakfast, but obviously not as in the "dieting" type. Also, given that she's sensitive to soy and dairy, I'm trying to avoid or minimize that. And, of course, I'd like to make it reasonably healthy, tasty, and use mostly organic and/or minimally-processed ingredients.

e for a most basic Energy Bar

1 cup natural-style peanut butter
3 cups dry uncooked oatmeal
5/8 cup honey
Protein powder (optional)

Combine the peanut butter and honey in a large nonstick pot and warm over low heat until runny and mixed. Mix in the oatmeal and protein powder. Do not bake, but heat enough to mix nicely. Press into a 9×9 inch pan and let cool. Makes 16 bars.

Next, we should add fruit and nuts -- they give a lot of "bang for the buck" to the backpacker! They contain a lot of calories (fat and sugar) for their weight. I found this next recipe on an athlete's site, and I'll skip the protein powder, and play around with some of the other ingredients -- I'd like to see more seeds and nuts.

Runner's Energy Bar

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein power
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 cup raisins or dried fruit of your choice/chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup honey or light Karo syrup
and now, ta-da, my latest invention, which turned out pretty good:
Borealkraut's ABC Bar
ABC stands for Alaska Blueberry & Cranberry

1/2 c honey
1/2 c PB
1/4 c Orange Juice concentrate (reduce to 1 or 2 T)
2 c rolled oats
1 c chopped pecans
1 c blueberries
1 c cranberries
optional: sesame seeds for coating bars, top and bottom.

Heat first 3 ingredients, then stir in everything else. Press into greased pan & refrigerate. Cut into bars.
This tasted really great, but came out rather sticky -- might want to add coconut, wheatgerm and/or ground flax.

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