And…I’m back from my 2 month-long hiatus. So much has happened since my last post. I visited friends and family in Pittsburgh, watched 2 good friends get married and just a few weeks ago moved to Salem, MA. Needless to say it has been a busy couple of months. When my schedule gets crazy, I often wish that I had a high-protein snack that I could carry around with me. I’ve looked and looked for a good tasting energy bar that is high in fiber and protein but low in carbs and haven’t been able to find something that isn’t filled with tons of sugar (either due to honey or dried fruit). These energy bars or “treats” as we like to call them are the perfect solution. SB originally found this recipe on Mark’s Daily Apple, a great website that introduced us to the Paleo lifestyle. He tweaked the recipe a bit and then I altered several more ingredients to make this final product. These bars are a great combination of nutty and sweet and are just filling enough to take the edge off your hunger in between meals.
At this point you may be thinking, “She can’t be telling me to put the seeds from my Chia Pet into my baked goods?!?!”, but before you run away let me give you some fun facts about the nutritional benefit of incorporating chia into your diet. Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica and have recently become popular among dieters due to their ability to absorb 10-times their weight in water, therefore curbing your appetite by taking up more volume in the stomach. Furthermore, ingesting Chia seeds along with your meal can slow down the rate at which our bodies process the carbohydrates we eat into simple sugars, which are later stored as fat. Besides these benefits, Chia seeds are a great natural thickening agent and although they have no flavor on their own, will magnify the flavors of the foods they are incorporated in.
Image taken from http://www.tlahui.com/medic/medic29/chia_salvia.htm
Maybe most importantly, Chia seeds are a less fishy source of Omega-3s, an essential fatty acid required for our bodies to work properly. Omega3 are thought to have a number of health benefits, such as reducing inflammation in the body (a property linked with many diseases). For a GREAT review on Omega3’s, I suggest your check out this post from the Caveman Doctor‘s blog. I learned so much from this article, especially about how the rise in the Omega6:Omega3 ratio in our diets has contributed to obesity-related illness and cancer.
Since it can be hard to gain enough Omega3’s from fish or meats alone (remember these forms of protein must be WILD or GRASS-FED since grain-fed diets lead to a reduction in the level of Omega3s found in the meat), it seems like a great idea to look to our plants to help us tip the Omega6:Omega3 scale in our favor. In support of supplementing Chia seeds as a way to increase our Omega3 intake, a recent study showed that women who ingested 25g/day of milled chia seeds had a 138% increase in plasma α-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega3 fatty acid and the precursor to two additional types of Omega3’s: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). Of note, EPA levels also increased significantly in these women, although no changes in DPA were observed over the time period studied.
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
- 1 ¼ cup almond flour
- ½ cup whey protein
- ½ tsp salt
- 1.5 heaping tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup almond butter (I love using Trader Joe’s almond butter with flaxseeds)
- 2 eggs
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 5 squares of 72% dark chocolate (I use Ghirardelli’s “Twilight Delight”)
- Unsweetened coconut
- Crushed nuts for sprinkling (choose your favorite! i’ve used pecans, hazelnuts and slivered almonds, all with success)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF
- In a small bowl, combine all dry ingredients (almond flour, protein, salt, chia seeds and cinnamon)
- In a separate bowl melt the coconut oil in a microwave (be careful- oil melts quick!)
- Add the almond butter and vanilla to the warm oil and mix together until smooth
- Allow oil mixture to cool for several minutes and then gradually stir in the eggs
- Add wet ingredients to the dry and combine, use your hands here to make sure that the dry ingredients are evenly incorporated
- There is no need to pre-oil your baking dish, as your dough should be pretty sticky/oily at this point
- Press dough into the bottom of a 9″X9″ glass baking dish, I use a spatula to press down on the top of the dough to ensure that it is flat and will cook evenly
- Place the 5 squares of chocolate on top of your raw dough
- Cook at 350ºF for 15 minutes (don’t worry if the oil from the dough starts to bubble)
- Using oven mitts, remove baking dish from oven and tilt back and forth to allow the melted chocolate to cover the top of the dough evenly
- Turn your broiler on HIGH
- Sprinkle unsweetened coconut and nuts on top of the melted chocolate layer
- Place dish under broiler until coconut and nuts toast to a beautiful brown
- WARNING: as little as 30 seconds too long under broiler = burnt energy treats= sad mess
- Allow to cool, cut into 16 squares and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for maximum freshness
Nutrition facts (1 square): 153 calories, 5g carb, 13g fat, 6g protein, 2g fiber, 2g sugar
- Jin et al, Plant Foods Hum Nutr (2012) 67:105-110