Monday, August 27, 2012

"Smarter for Life" Bars (Sugar, Nut, & Gluten-Free + Vegan Option)

Happy Monday morning!  It is cloudy and rainstorms are predicted for today, but that's cool with me, assuming it gets rid of the extreme heat and humidity we've had for the past few days.  We had a lovely weekend, inspite of the icky weather, and the fact that Little A may have a bladder infection (still waiting for the lab results) and Big A has strep throat (meds made her feel better pretty quick).  Saturday afternoon we needed an inside activity to occupy the girls so I got them to help me make these bars.

For the past few years Adam has been buying the Smart for Life Bars from Costco. 

Given his cholesterol issues, they're better than a lot of other similar options that are high in saturated fat, but they are still not great.  They use soy protein isolate and are really high in sugar.  Unfortunately, it's Little A who has really fallen in love with them.  She ADORES them, and she is super picky.  She is almost as likely to turn up her nose at a piece of cake or candy as she is a leafy green vegetable.

In any case, I am definitely not thrilled about her eating these, so Adam is going to keep them at his office from now on.  But Little A is not much of a breakfast eater, so when I tell her she cannot have one of these, than she often isn't interested in eating breakfast at all.  So my task here was to make some MUCH healthier version that she would like, and also a nut-free version so they are school/daycare friendly.  I opted to use oats instead of a ready-made rice crisp cereal like the originals, so they are more chewy than crispy, but I am very pleased to say that she loves these and I feel much better about her eating them than the original bars!

"Smarter for Life" Bars

4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free if necessary), pulsed in food processor to chop, or ground into flour, if desired (or 4 cups brown rice crisp cereal)*
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 banana, mashed
1 tbls white chia seeds
40g scoop sugar-free vanilla protein powder (whey, hemp, pea, rice, etc.)**
1/4 cup skim milk powder or coconut milk powder
A few drops vanilla stevia liquid, to taste (optional)

3 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 tbls coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup xylitol, stevia baking blend or other sweetener (or to taste)

Melt oil in small pot over medium heat.  Add banana and chia seeds and turn heat down to low and stir for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.  Add oats/oat flour and press firmly into 9x9 square pan lined with parchment paper.  Refrigerate.  In a small pot over medium heat, melt chocolate with oil.  Add in remaining ingredients and remove from heat.  Spread evenly over oat mixture and refrigerate until firm.  Remove from pan and cut into bars or squares.  Keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

*When you keep the oats whole (as I did), the bars will be a bit crumbly if you don't really firmly press them into the pan.  Breaking up the oats or making them into flour first will make them less crumbly.

**You can use an unsweetened, unflavoured protein powder, but then you may have to add more stevia.