This mama has a major sweet tooth—the kind that has seen many a late-night trips to gas stations for Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s when all the grocery stores were closed…well before I was ever pregnant. It’s the kind that has me dreaming of hot fudge sundaes, planning my days around my sweet treats, and marking the turn of seasons by the type of candy that hits the stores. (It’s candy corn season now—my very favorite!)
In constant combat with my sweet tooth is my commitment to good health and healthy eating. I’ve always noticed a strong link between what I eat and how I feel, so eating well has always made sense. This commitment, with my un-curb-able sugar cravings, means I’ve spent much of my adult life both trying to find healthier substitutes to my favorite sweets and attempting to rework my favorite dessert recipes so they’re a little less sugary and a lot more nutritious.
I’ve been somewhat successful. I’m usually okay eating a little chocolate sorbet or some dark chocolate instead of a triple dip chocolate chip cookie dough hot fudge sundae (although I just have to have one of those every now and then!) I even have my own hot fudge recipe that’s way lower in sugar but still high in yummy-ness for the days when nothing else will work. During my mid-afternoon slump, fruit mixed with Greek yogurt and a cup of unsweetened flavored tea or coffee (have you tried Green Mountain’s pumpkin spice?? Another seasonal favorite!) replace chocolate covered espresso beans and a Caramel Macchiato.
Still, I’ve found breakfast to be more challenging. All through elementary and middle school, I started my day with Lucky Charms or microwave pancakes soaked in syrup. In high school, I graduated to Pop-Tarts and bagels with jelly, and in college, I had every sweet thing imaginable available in the dining hall. For the last decade, I’ve been stuck on bars—Powerbar, Luna, Clif, Zone, Odwalla, Kashi…you name it, I’ve eaten one or two of them for breakfast over the last decade. I bet I’ve eaten thousands of bars in my lifetime and spent several thousands of dollars on them.
When I stopped eating soy and gluten a couple months ago, my bar options narrowed, and I couldn’t find anything I loved. Larabars all were too sweet for me, and other brands (Pure, Kind, and Bora Bora) only had a couple flavors I could actually stomach. (I pretty much hate all dried fruit, so you can see how this is limiting.) Plus, all of the new bars I liked were almost two dollars each! And so began my experimenting.
After reading through hundreds of recipes, I couldn’t find one that met my requirements. My goal was: soy free, gluten free, a decent amount of protein, no added sugar, lots of chocolate, a little coconut, no cooking/baking required, and high on the yummy factor. Finally, after several weeks of nights (after the kids were in bed) in the kitchen modifying and refining the recipe, I think I got something worth sharing with the world. Here goes:
German Chocolate Cake Breakfast (Dessert/Snack/etc) Bars
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder
3/4 cup + 2 T walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 T cacao nibs
1) Chop dates with a cutting board (if not chopped already).
2) In this order, put cocoa powder, dates, protein powder, 3/4 cup walnuts (save 2 T), and coconut into food processor. Grind/chop until fine. (The order matters because my food processor sprays cocoa powder if I put it in last. Plus, having the dry ingredients surrounding the dates helps so the dates don’t get stuck on the blades.)
3) Dump mixture from food processor into a bowl. Stir in coconut milk.
4) Chop last 2 T of walnuts (in food processor or by hand).
5) Stir in last of walnuts and cacao nibs.
6) Press mixture into a 1.2 quart glass loaf pan.
7) Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
8) Slice into 5 bars, and wrap each with aluminum foil.
Nutritional Info per bar (1/5 of recipe):
273 calories, 18 grams fat (5 saturated), 12 grams sugar, 7 grams fiber, 12 grams protein
For the past several weeks, I have been making a batch of these every Sunday night and cutting and wrapping them for the weekdays. I have a coworker/friend who is vegan who plans to try the recipe with vegan protein powder. And, my husband has been begging me to swap the walnuts and coconut for chunky peanut butter for a bar that suits his tastes. I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, try it out yourself—as is or with substitutions. Then, drop me a line, and tell me what you think! Happy Sunday night!