The heat in my car stopped working (intermittently) a couple weeks back. In a not-so-serendipitous turn of events, this was also the point in time where it became necessary to restock my shelf of on-bike “energy” food. With visions of $500 car repair bills dancing in my head, I peered a shelf lower only to find vast quantities of oatmeal, honey, and peanut butter. You know, all that stuff I never eat during aerobic base because I’m neurotic about food. Ish. In any case, I came to the conclusion that making my own bars could be a (potentially) money-saving venture with (potentially) disastrous consequences, mostly for my kitchen and cookware.
Correct on all points! After three tries, I think I may have it dialed. Not only are most of the offspring of the Powerbar on the market expensive and not terribly appetizing, but their ingredient list is often peppered with additives ending in food engineering suffixes like “ol”, “gum”, and “ium” in the name of consistency and shelf-life. Bars I make in a giant shiny bowl with raw ingredients I snag from the bulk food section of my local Sunflower Market (take note - this spot rocks for those of us without the resources for Whole Paycheck but the desire to eat well) lack most anything you wouldn’t be able to name on first glance, and they’re quite pleasing on the palate as well. Check after the break for the dead-simple ingredients and recipe.
Step 1: Gather Ingredients. I measure all of my food in grams. This makes it easy to not only sate my sport-induced self-starvation, but also easy to portion these out when they’re done. Convert measurements at your leisure as needed, and adjust for consistency/taste at will…this is not a precise science by any means.
- 650g Quick Rolled Oats (I used organic ‘cause I’m a baller, and they were 20 cents more a pound)
- 150g Salted Mixed Nuts, chopped
- 550g Honey
- 20g Brown Sugar (Helps crystallize the honey)
- 200g Peanut Butter (for my last round I used Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate, but I’ve found the fresh ground stuff you can make with a grinder at the store to offer a better flavor and texture in the bars with a tbsp of sea salt)
- 2 tsp each of almond and vanilla extract
- Squeeze of lemon
Step 2: Combine your chopped nuts and oats in a bowl. Set aside. I lack a food processor…or chopper. But I’ve got a Henckel!
Step 3: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine honey, PB, and brown sugar. Whisk together as it begins to heat, and keep stirring for a couple minutes as it begins to boil to keep from scorching.
Step 4: Bring the mixture to a serious-business-type boil. This is KEY. Something about the honey getting really hot and to the point of crystallizing. I don’t know, I’ve never tried to make candy. Or been a chemist. So I can’t tell you why - but this keeps your bars together later on. So yeah, you want your stuff to get nice and foamy looking. Like this.
Step 5: While your honey mixture is boiling, dump it into your big metal bowl containing your oats and nuts. Add lemon juice and extracts. Stir with a vengeance! It’ll probably take a couple minutes for the stuff to combine. Be patient before adding more dry/wet ingredients.
Step 6: After your mixture is sticking together and the liquid has soaked into the oats, dump it into a cookie sheet or baking pan (depending on how thick you want your bars to be). Use a sheet of wax paper to press everything flat and even.
Step 7: Let the pan of bars cool. Use the freezer to accelerate the process. Once solidified, cut into bars, scoop out of the pan, and wrap! I used wax paper, but plastic wrap or tupperware are both great alternatives.
All told, it should yield a sheet of bars that total approximately 6100 calories, with 3400 from carbs, 500 from protein, and 1700 from fat. I divided it into about 30 bars for around 200kcal apiece.
So, let’s do the math.
Cost on the Natebars: Roughly $.30 apiece and 40 minutes.
Prepackaged Bars: $1-3 each.
Nutrition? Pretty damn close to the same. Variation ideas? I’ll add espresso grounds to my next round, and maybe try some dried fruit. Chocolate chips are another idea I’ve got kicking around, as well as whey isolate powder. The possibilities are pretty damned endless.
In short? You’re going to know what you’re eating, it’ll taste better, you’ll save money, AND get working heat in your '85 Volvo, so you can get to training in warmer climes come January. Win/win/win/win/WIN!