Routine - who would say? - is something likeable. A post about formulas and savory (or not) energy bars.


(Em português)

I don't know about you, but I am a person who likes food. Really.
It gives me severe bad mood if I get hungry/ crave for food, and have nothing to nibble.
And the plot thickens, as I've been in this healthy-eating-well wave.
Because sometimes I could give it a way having snacks at any bakery down the street, but I haven't been feeling like it lately (besides, each little bite you buy around São Paulo represents a significant percentage of one's monthly budget).
So, in May 2012, gathering information here and there and testing a little, I found myself happy about a recipe/ formula that I came up with for oatmeal granola bars.
You see: they are just the way I like it. Crunchy, and accepting a wide variation of ingredients.
The point is: if I'm hungry, I urge for something savory. And that is just not possible with the recipe mentioned.
There are some options of savory bars being sold out there. But I heard that mostly they taste weird.
Anyway, there are possible.
So, there goes Flora looking in the internet for savory energy bars recipes. But they are not easy to find, not at all.
I had found a website which I really enjoyed, I read it on my mobile in the subway, then never found that link again.
I remember the person who wrote that post worked at a hospital, and s/he commented how clumsy it was to eat trail mixes for a snack.
The idea is good, allright. However, it is not functional:
Picture yourself in the bus/ your car/ in the middle of a film set/ at the office, wherever, holding a bag or a cup of nuts in one hand while feeding yourself with the other one.
So, it seemed like a good idea to merge all of the ingredients into one bar.
This person had some vague ideas of ways to put it together, nothing very concrete.
Going on with my research, I found a post at No meat athlete. Then I figured:
I did not need a recipe, I needed a formula. What a smart guy!
It so happens that his formula wasn't exactly what I was looking for, despite of it filling all nutritional needs etc etc etc.
Next step? Make mess in my kitchen until I found a formula I liked.

As a base, I used my oatmeal granola bar recipe, then I reached a much more extensive formula, which allows one to bake bars with or without carbs, sweet, neutral or savory, with or without gluten, with or without animal product, with or without... well. You get it, right?
So, to make 6 bars, the formula goes like this:

- 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of the main ingredient/s (meaning: nuts, toasted seeds, dried fruit, rolled oats or other cereal, sky is the limit!)
- Up to one tablespoon of special flavor ingredient (chopped candied orange peels, chopped chocolate, a pinch of cinnamon or a splash of vanilla, a pinch of curry powder, fresh of dried herbs, powdered unsweetened cocoa, fennel seeds, so forth and so on.)
- 3 tablespoons of a "binder" ingredient (most common here would be to use 1 egg white, slightly beaten into a foam texture, as I explain in the oatmeal bars recipe. One egg white roughly equals to 2 tablespoons, but you don't need to add any more binder ingredient if you don't feel like it.
You could also use honey, molasses, brown sugar melted over low heat, maple syrup.
I have been using water mixed with chia or flax seeds. Both of them make the water become gelatinous/ viscous, and give a great end result, making for light texture bars.
I leave the seeds soaking in some water for at least an hour before using (but they can soak for several hours, with no problem) or cook them with some water over low heat until it reaches a texture my mother calls "frog drool". A nice way to describe ingredients, I know.
One last note about it: I use the seeds whole, but I suppose the results would be the same if you used them ground or broken - that's something to be tested.
Lastly, you can choose to mix some of the above options or even other ones you come up with.
Just remember, if you choose honey or other sweet ingredient, make it no more than 2 tablespoons, and in that case increase the amount of fat to 1 tablespoon).
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of some refined flour (it helps bind the ingredients. I've tried all purpose flour and rice flour, both worked like a charm. There are probably thousands of options out there).
- 2 tablespoons oil (could be olive, canola, coconut, sesame, grape seed, flax seed, butter, peanut butter, tahine... I haven't figured completely what's the function of fat in this formula, but it seems to me like it helps dry out the bars and make them crunchy).
- At least 1/4 tablespoon sea salt (it serves as a preservative, use it even in sweet bars. In the case you're baking a savory one, increase it to taste).
- Baking soda (Look, today I bought two really tasty sesame bars at this oriental shop, to try them. One of which had in the ingredient list "anti-humectant baking soda". Makes all sense to me.
I have not tried to bake bars with it yet, but I believe it is totally welcome, and I would probably try using 1/8 teaspoon.
It will help the bars to last longer. The versions I have alredy cooked have kept good for 10 days in an airtight glass jar. I would transfer them to mini-tupperwares when carrying them in my purse.

(Cup measure: 240ml)

I will give an example, along go the instruction for preparing:
- 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon mixed chopped nuts: raw almonds, peeled unsalted pumpkin seeds, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted peanuts, Brazil nuts, toasted sesame seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 3 tablespoons of flax seeds and water mix (I cooked over low heat about 1 tablespoon raw seeds + 1/4 cup filtered water - the famous "frog drool")
- 1 1/2 teaspoon all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
(Keep in mind that this is an example of bars I have actually baked. I had not thought of the baking soda yet. However, I do recommend trying it).

I placed all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, plus the oregano, and combined. Aside, I stirred together 3 tablespoons of flax seeds mix and the oil, poured the mix into the bowl with the other ingredients and stirred well until smooth.
I lightly greased and floured 6 individual 3x7cm pans, and transferred 2 tablespoon of the "dough" to each one. I pressed with my fingertips to make sure the dough was compact and about 1cm high.

I have also baked these bars in mini heart-shaped pans (you can see them at the end of this post), and round ones. The important issue is to make sure the pans' bottoms have roughly the same area, so that the bars won't come out too thick nor too thin. Another observation: I have used metal pans as well as silicone, and it is true that silicone ones are much easier to handle, specially when taking the bars out.
Then I placed the individual pans on top of a upside-down baking tray (I will tell you why: if the tray's edges were around the individual pans, the evaporation would be slower and less efficient).
I took them to preheated oven at 150oC and let bake for 30 minutes.
After that the bars should be fairly firm. I took them out of the individual pans and placed on top of the tray (still upside-down), making sure the bars' side which had been in touch with the bottom of the pans were now up.
I let them bake for 30 minutes more at 130oC.

When taking out of the oven, I placed the bars over a cooling rack and let cool completely before storing. I keep my bars all together in a ziplock bag or in an airtight glass jar.
They have kept good for 10 day in the baking soda free version.

Now, remember the nutrients will depend on the ingredients chosen.
In the example I have given, the bars are highly caloric, giving much energy and good quality fat for my body (it's almost only nuts). One of them alone is a snack, so don't eat more than one at a time.
If it is the case, show this formula to a nutritionist and ask him/her to help you think what would be ingredients that would suit you body's needs.

"Right. And what about the routine in the middle of this?", will question the reader with good memory.
Well. Routine is something I constantly think about, because I used to dislike it - until I lost it.
Then us, self-employed workers, go round and round trying to establish routines to make everything work in the great oscillation of work time x free time x duties x leisure x the time we wake up x furniture being delivered to our places x dear ones' birthdays x...
At the end, I guess the way around it is to test and test, until finding out what are the fundamental components to make each week a good one (as the components in this energy bar formula), and switching "ingredients" according to what is at hand.
It's been working for me in the last couple months. What about you?

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