Snack Right: Chocolate Quinoa Protein Bars!


As I squeezed through the massive crowds yesterday, watching people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages run around this city for the Chicago marathon, I was inspired. How all of these people, so different in their everyday lives, came together for one singular purpose: to run. With the spiked temperatures, the pain on many faces was apparent. Red-cheeked, sweat-drenched, the runners were propelled at a faster than anticipated pace so as not to get trampled by the constant wave of runners. 
I saw people munching on all kinds of foods: goos, clif blocks, energy drinks, bananas, etc. I started thinking about Clif bars, and how that seems to be the choice for most runners. But, they are not always easily digestible and while made with mostly organic ingredients, if runners (or anyone, for that matter) had their own homemade concoction instead of a store bought kind, their energy could soar. What's the answer? Quinoa to the rescue. I saw these bars on a great vegetarian blog and decided to put a few twists for my own recipe. They are easy to make and satisfy any sweet craving. With less than 200 calories and 5 grams of fat per bar, they are a perfect pre or post workout snack. Enjoy! 
Chocolate Quinoa Protein Bars
3/4 cup dry quinoa (or 2 cups cooked)
1/2 cup dates, pitted
3 tbs. agave nectar
2 tbs. canola oil
2 tbs. ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup chocolate protein powder (hemp, whey or soy)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour)
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray. Rinse the dry quinoa in cold water, then let sit in a bowl of water for 10 minutes. In the meantime, bring a cup of water to boil. Drain the quinoa and add to the boiling water. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer for about 12 minutes. 
In a food processor or blender, combine the cooked quinoa, dates, agave nectar, canola oil, flaxseed and almond extract. Process until smooth (the quinoa will stay slightly lumpy). In a small bowl, stir together the protein powder, flour, chocolate chips, and nuts. Fold this dry mixture into wet mixture with a spatula. The dough is thick, like cookie dough, so press evenly into prepared pan. 
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until firm. Let cool, then slice into individual bars. Store in a container for up to a week, or freeze. 

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