Brownie Protein Bars

POST OVERVIEW

  • WHY?
  • Comparing Aldi “Fit & Active” Bars to My Brownie Protein Bars
  • A few hints before you try this
  • Ingredients & Directions

*will add pictures to this post one day. camera is broken. boo.*

Sarah’s Brownie Protein Bars (printable PDF of ingredients and directions)

 

WHY?
Ok, so one of my (2014) resolutions was to make more stuff homemade to save our family $ and to eat healthier. I pack a protein bar in Mark’s lunch every day (he works a physically demanding job) to eat either on break, partway through the day, or on his way home (depending on the job and hours). We used to buy cheap Aldi brand “protein” bars–$5/box of 6, or $.83/bar and we went through 3-4 boxes in a month ($15-$20).

I scoured Pinterest for recipes, combined elements of several ideas, and came up with this recipe. Made my first batch on 1.4.2014 and they were an instant hit–with Mark and my (then 2-yr old) daughter. I’ve been keeping our freezer stocked with them ever since. They taste good, are nutritionally superior, provide long-lasting energy (Mark stopped coming home famished every day), and cost about $.50/bar to make. The recipe has been extremely adaptable when I run out of certain ingredients (sugars, flours). My favorite part? They keep well in the freezer!

 

COMPARING Aldi “Fit & Active” bars to my Brownie Protein Bars
One Aldi “Fit & Active” protein bar:

  • 180 calories (snack bar)
  • 10 g protein
  • 25 g total carbs (13 g is added fake sugar–which makes you feel hungry because it makes you crave more fake sugar)
  • 5 g fiber
  • 6 g fat
  • 10+ “no-no” ingredients for people wanting to eat a whole-food, “clean” diet (soy, corn syrup, artificial flavors, additives & preservatives, etc). They are definitely YUMMY, but totally BAD!
  • COST: $5 for box of 6, or $.83/bar. 


1 Brownie Protein Bar:

  • 300 calories (can be a meal replacement)
  • 16 g protein
  • 18 g carbs
  • 3.5 g fiber
  • 20 g fat (the GOOD fat, don’t freak out–this is where a lot of the sustaining, slow-burning energy comes from as opposed to “quick-burning” sugar energy that causes insulin spikes and crashes–8g from coconut oil, 5 g from peanut butter, the rest from everything else )
  • NO added funky ingredients
  • COST: 16 bars costs about $8 to make, or $.50/bar. Better nutrition for less $? I can live with that!

 

A FEW HINTS before you try this
My first batch I only made 8 bars–just in case this ended up being a FAIL. Since they keep so well in the freezer, I haven’t made single batches since–I always double (16 bars)…but with the number of ingredients and steps for this, the first couple months making these I still found the process lengthy (and annoying).

Lightbulb moment. My fourth batch in, I got out 2 tupperware containers and measured out all the dry ingredients (other than the oats and toppings)   for my next 2 batches at the same time as the current batch. Stored them in the pantry. BAM. Loads of time saved since! To help you do the same, I’ve made two ingredient lists: those that you can pre-measure to save you time, and those you will need the day of.

This recipe is also for a “double” batch (16 bars). If you want to try it out first, cut everything in half and bake in a 8×8 glass pan instead of a full-sized glass baking dish.

To cut costs long-term, buy ingredients in bulk online or in store when on sale. At the beginning of this year (2015) I set aside about $100 to buy ingredients in bulk online. Still have plenty left, (it’s June) and I use stuff for more than just protein bars. (I’m listing other super foods not included in this recipe, but are way cheaper online than in store.)

Costco has the cheapest high-quality organic coconut oil. If you aren’t a member (I’m not), have a friend who is get it for you and pay them back. I stock up on the big jars of peanut butter when they are BOGO-free at the grocery store (usually Publix–they run this sale 4x a year). I pay $3.50/40 oz. jar. Nestle chocolate chips go 2/$3 or BOGO-free at Bi-Lo or Publix several times a year–especially during end of the year holidays (Christmas). If I run out before a sale I use the Aldi mini chips.

 

INGREDIENTS (for pre-measurement)

  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 scoops whey protein powder of choice (chocolate, vanilla, or unflavored—for a long time I used the Body Fortress brand in either chocolate or vanilla. I’ve recently switched to Vitacost’s unflavored whey protein and Mark hasn’t noticed a difference in taste)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup regular sugar (I’ve also used sucanat, coconut sugar, or 2 tbs stevia instead)
  • ½ cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 cup almond flour (can use all-purpose or whole wheat flour, but you will add 32 g carbs, decrease the fiber count, and you will end up with a dense cake-like texture instead of brownie-like)
  • 1 tsp salt (sea salt, table salt, Himalayan…whatever…I buy Himalayan in bulk & use it for everything)
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder, unsweetened

OTHER INGREDIENTS

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats OR steel-cut oats
  • 2 cups almond milk (unsweetened, original or vanilla)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter (I normally use Peter Pan or Jif crunchy, but any brand/kind will work)
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil
  • OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: ½ cup nuts and/or chocolate chips of choice (not included in my calorie counts. I always top with dark chocolate chips.)

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Using stovetop or the microwave, cook the oats in the almond milk.
  3. Mash the banana in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm oats/milk, eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, and peanut butter. Mix well.
    • NOTES: I used a wooden spoon for everything for a year. I got a Kitchen Aide standing mixer as a gift, and have been throwing everything in that instead and it’s been awesome–the bars are also turning out with a richer, gooier texture. So, if you are blessed with a standing mixer, USE IT, otherwise I now recommend a hand mixer over just a spoon.
    • After a few times making this, I stopped measuring the peanut butter and coconut oil (which was a pain) and started eye-balling it instead.
    • Don’t wait for the oats/milk to cool to mix–the heat helps the coconut oil and peanut butter melt and blend in.
  4. Add the rest of the dry ingredients–(everything that can be pre-measured) and continue to mix until you see no banana lumps. Oat lumps are fine.
  5. Spray an full-sized glass baking dish with cooking oil spray (don’t forget this part…I forgot once and will never forget again). Pour in the batter. Sprinkle chocolate chips or nuts on top, if desired, or melt the chocolate chips and drizzle on top.
  6. Bake uncovered for 22-25 minutes; begin testing with a toothpick or fork @ 22 minutes. If it’s slightly gooey in the middle, that’s ok—this stuff is better slightly under-baked than it is over-baked. I ended up taking mine out after 24 min.
  7. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars. Sometimes I cover and allow them to chill overnight in the fridge. Wrap each individually in plastic wrap or plastic baggies and store in freezer or refrigerator. Unwrap and microwave 20-30 seconds to warm, if desired.

 

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