I can remember many a cool fall ride in the mid to late 90s, coming over a rise on a beautiful country road, as I neared the half way mark of a 100+km ride, the birds overhead flying south for the winter, the sun low in the late afternoon sky, as I tried in vain to gnaw my way through a cold Powerbar that had been in my jersey pocket. They were hard as a rock and about as palatable. The only thing worse than their texture was the effort required to open their space-age mylar packaging, with gloves on, as you rode! Powerbar was the go-to brand though. They sponsored everything on two wheels and they were about all you could find at the bike shop, I even acquired a taste for them after a while. Seriously! I’m not sure exactly when Clif bars came out, but I was quick to convert. They offered chewy ‘chocolate chip’, ‘oatmeal raisin walnut’ and ‘carrot cake’, among others! They were like cookies that you could believe were good for you. As the years, and the miles, passed, my nutritional perspective began to change and I sought to get away from the carb dominant bars and soy protein isolates. By this time, around 2005, I wasn’t riding much, except to get to work, but I was looking for a convenient bar to fuel the longer sessions in my outrigger canoe that tended to take me from the TSCC in Toronto to Port Credit and back (about 34km depending on the line taken), or from the TSCC to Ashbridges Bay (also about 35km), or for a quick post workout recovery snack after my favorite loop around the Toronto Islands. Around this time MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) products were becoming better known amongst endurance athletes, and while I wasn’t about to drink MCT oil from the bottle, I did look for lower carb bars that were higher in fats, especially these medium chain fats from coconut oil. My favorite became the Cocochia Bar by Living Fuel. It happens to be dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free so it’s ideal for those looking to remove these common allergens from their diets too. The flavour is mild, and it provides sustained energy, just like the wrapper claims! In fact I liked them so much I became one of their Trusted Advisors, or distributors, a few years ago. The only problem, other than all of the chia seeds that will be stuck in your teeth and the fact that no one will tell you, would be the price, about $35 +tax for 12, or about $3.25 per bar. The price is actually a bargain given the quality of the mostly organic ingredients, but it does add up after a while. Still a favorite I tend to pack one in my jersey occasionally now that I’m back to cycling regularly and covering longer distances again. Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more: http://www.livingfuel.ca/en/products/Original_CocoChia_Bar/index.html
But this isn’t about Cocochia bars, this is about my bar, or your bar, this is about making your own and packing it to go!
I was inspired about a month ago have a go at making my own bar so I looked for recipes online. Many of them used oats as their base. I have been on a gluten-free diet since March, and while oats are a gluten-free grain, they are pretty much all contaminated with other cereal grains, and thus gluten, during shipping, processing and packaging, so I decided to go with toasted Buckwheat instead, and hoped for less contamination. Yes, despite having wheat in the name Buckwheat is one of the few gluten-free grains. It has a rather strong flavour though, compared to oats, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out in a bar, but I figured if I mixed in enough dark chocolate chips it would all even out 🙂
So with some online recipes in mind to serve as a guideline I took a trip to the Bulk Barn at Yonge and Carlton and picked up a pile of things that I hoped would go well in a bar; Toasted Buckwheat (often labeled Kasha), raisins, shredded coconut, walnuts, semi-sweet dark chocolate chips etc and some brown-rice syrup to help bind it all together. The most expensive ingredient would be the walnuts, but even then, the price per bar comes in under $2 and for that price I know what’s in it, and I get exactly what I want. Actually I would prefer to use almonds instead of walnuts but my partner may be allergic, so I made the change in case she’d like a sample. Baked ahead of time, these chewy, nutritious walnut-buckwheat bars are the perfect companion for long rides or your favorite canoe route. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give them a try, or make a few substitutions and come up with your own:
Chocolate-Walnut-Buckwheat Energy Bars (okay I may need to work on the name)
1 1/2 cups Toasted buckwheat (kasha)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar (to help balance the bitterness of the cocoa powder)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp brown rice syrup
Preheat oven to 325°F.
In food processor, or coffee grinder, grind all or most of the walnuts into a coarse flour.
In large bowl thoroughly mix together all dry ingredients, add oil and brown rice syrup and mix thoroughly.
Pat mixture evenly into a parchment-lined cookie sheet until it reaches desired thickness. Bake about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool.
While still warm, shape edges if necessary.
Once cool cut into rows, 2×5. Makes 10 bars (obviously).
Enjoy and let me know how yours’ turn out!