These protein-packed super food bars will keep your mind, heart, and lungs functioning at full capacity. Amaranth, the new super grain (actually a seed), is sure to replace quinoa on many grocery lists. As quinoa prices have climbed to over $6 a pound, I’ve switched to amaranth, which is only $2-3 a pound, and discovered that its small crunchy seeds offer a delightful texture and earthy taste, and it’s one of the healthiest ingredients out there. Imagine the prefect amino acid profile, a significant amount of iron, calcium, vitamin C, and fiber in a tight little seed (Coles). Now picture that seed coated in a thick bath of chocolate, almonds, blueberries, cranberries, bananas, coconut, and peanut butter.
I like to rate food by asking two questions: does it taste good, and what horrible disease will it prevent? Taste-wise, you can’t really fall down with the ingredients in this recipe. Health-wise, in each bar you will reap the benefits of naturally occurring chemicals and vitamins that have been proven to help slam down heart-disease, stroke, and most types of cancer. With each bite, you ingest anthocyanins from blueberries, cranberry’s proanthocyanidins and vitamin C (Bede), the flavonoids in chocolate, vitamin E, arginine, phenols, proanthocyanidins, and phytosterols from almonds (Hamblin), and potassium from bananas (Medical News Today). You couldn’t possibly bathe a seed in more super foods, unless you added chopped kale, which would probably taste weird.
Makes 15 bars
3/4 cup uncooked amaranth, washed and dried
3 large, ripe bananas
1-2 tablespoons honey (optional—Since I don’t enjoy sweet things, I often leave this out)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 lemon, zested (no juice)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened, if possible. If you can only find sweetened, add 1 tablespoon of the honey)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt, to taste
1 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate, chopped (dairy-free)
1 cup blueberries, frozen
1. Preheat an oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a food processor, place the bananas, peanut butter, shredded coconut, cranberries, lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger, salt, honey, and vanilla. Blend until relatively smooth, about 1-2 minutes. There will still be some pieces of cranberries, but everything else should be blended together.
3. Place the mixture in a bowl, add the chopped almonds, and stir until incorporated.
4. Working in batches, place ½ cup of amaranth in the bowl and stir the mixture until all of the grain is absorbed. Repeat this process until the entire 3/4 cup of amaranth is absorbed.
5. Gently fold in the frozen blueberries and chocolate.* I prefer frozen berries because fresh berries get mushy when you stir the mixture, and frozen berries retain their shape as the bars bake.
6. Grease a large heavy glass baking dish with a light coating of olive oil.
7. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish, and evenly spread it out over the dish’s surface. The mixture should be about 1 and 1/4 inch thick once it’s spread out.
8. Bake the mix for 55-60 minutes, or until a fork placed in the middle of the dish comes out clean. Cool, cut, and gently lift the bars from the baking dish.
9. Store these packets of protein in the refrigerator and consume them within a week. I enjoy these bars for breakfast and as a mid-day snack.
*If you want to try incorporating chopped kale into the bars, this would be the step in which to add it (1 cup, finely chopped)
Bede, Pamela Nisevich. "Why Cranberries Are So Good for Your Health." Runner's World & Running Times. N.p., 13 Aug. 2013. Web. 26 May 2015.
Coles, Terri. "14 Things You Didn't Know About Amaranth." The Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.
Hamblin, James. "The Dark Side of Almond Use." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 May 2015.
"Nine Health Benefits of Chocolate." Womenshealthmag.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.
"What Are the Health Benefits of Bananas?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.
"What Are the Health Benefits of Blueberries?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 30 May 2015.