Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Clean" Chocolate oatmeal no bake bars

We have been changing our diet pretty drastically over the last few weeks. I have already been on a health journey of sorts, slowly making changes over the last couple of years, But most of the time, we ended up having one good week followed by a HORRIBLE week full of processed food.  In an attempt to improve our health, and help my son with his focus/ADD problems in school, we have decided we need to get away from all of the processed foods, artificial colors, preservatives, etc...  So we are going cold turkey and making EVERYTHING homemade.  As luck would have it, I was just given about 100 lbs of wheat!  I have been learning a lot about washing and grinding grain, bread making and other scratch recipes.  I've had some fails, but overall it has been much more willingly accepted by my family than I ever expected.  And surprisingly, some thing taste better than before! :)
We are also avoiding all processed sugars and lowering our overall sugar intake significantly.  My kids have even been great about this...mostly.  Jayden and Kayleigh always brings me any sweets they get.  I have been proud of him understanding why we are doing this and being supportive.  Don't worry, we aren't totally ripping them off.  We are trading their candy for fun activities or money.  (A couple of my kids are struggling more with this particular change, and one child still eats candy when he can at school, but I hope they will understand as time goes by.)  Of course, we still have to have a sweet treat now and again.  This is my favorite find.  They are literally packed with good stuff, they are easy to make and taste AMAZING!   My kids LOVE them.

I altered it from a pinterest recipe, most of them just use honey, but I think it is overpowering.  I like mixing different sweeteners because one doesn't take over.

12 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate (or cocoa substitution, see below for ratios)
1 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup real maple syrup
3/4 cup agave
3 cups natural peanut butter(I use half creamy, half crunchy)
1/2 cup chia seeds
1-2 cups unsweetened coconut
1 cup finely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pecans)
4 1/2-5 cups oats
(optional, ground cacao beans or nibs, I added a couple of tablespoons and I don't know if it makes a difference)

Actually everything in this recipe is optional, it is so easy to change for different taste or diet requirements.  And you can add or substitute raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, or anything else that sounds good to you.

Cocoa substitution: For every ounce of bakers chocolate use 3 Tablespoons of Cocoa and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or butter.

I bought chia seeds from a health food store to put in smoothies, but my family didn't like their effect on our green smoothies ;).  They thicken liquid, so for those who don't love our blended juice so much, that made it harder to drink .  Don't let me scare you away from using them though!  I've tried them alone and they don't taste bad at all, they are just really tiny.  They could be a great thickener if the texture of them doesn't bother you, or you can sprinkle them on anything: salad, rice, veggies, hot cereal.  They work great in this recipe regardless, I can't even tell they are there. 
The reason you should find a way to use them is that they are a POWERHOUSE of nutrition.  They have omega-3s, a lot of omega 3s.  1 tbsp. has almost 5000 milligrams per ounce!  And it is more easily accessible to the body than flax without grinding them.  Omega-3's are great for your brain, inflammation reduction, and heart health, among other things.  Fiber 11 grams per ounce, Calcium, 18 percent of DV, plus protein, antioxidants...  It is being studied as a treatment for type 2 diabetes because of its effects on digestion.  The gelatinous coating that the seeds develop in liquid slows down digestion and can prevent sugar spikes, help with insulin resistance.

Just a couple more notes on ingredients.  I was worried my kids wouldn't all like the texture of almonds and pecans, so I basically chopped them to powder in my blender.  It was 11/2-2 cups to start and became one cup after blending.  I didn't measure even amounts, I just poured in a few almonds and a few pecans up to about the 2 cup level in my blender. 
Where I buy ingredients: Winco sells unsweetened coconut in their bulk bins.  It's actually ground rather than shredded, but I like it.  I used to buy unsweetened shreds at smith's but my smith's hasn't had unsweetened for a while.  I get my chia seeds from Sprout's market.  Sam's club has the best value on real maple syrup in my opinion.  Costco's is a little cheaper, but we don't like the taste as well.  Costco sells nutiva brand coconut oil which is a great brand at an awesome price.  I haven't researched the quality of the sam's club brand, but it's affordable and claims to be organic, cold pressed, unrefined as well.  This is a great article with lots of good unbiased info about how to choose quality coconut oil.  I read a blog the other day that advised against buying oil at Costco, but she has a vested interest in the oil company she was advising instead, and her info was completely unfounded and incorrect.  I found this article much more useful :).

Instructions:  Mix all of your seeds, nuts, and oats in a large bowl.  Set aside.  Melt chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave at one minute intervals till just melted.  I don't like to heat it any more than necessary.  If your honey is sugary, you could heat that a little too.  Once the chocolate is smooth, add your sweeteners and peanut butter and blend well.  ( I just use a big pampered chef rubber spatula to blend)  Pour into dry ingredients and make sure you incorporate them into it well.  I put parchment into a big aluminum cookie sheet making sure that the parchment hangs out of the pan on all sides.  (this is of course optional, but it makes it much easier to remove)  Spread mixture evenly in the pan.  You can also lay parchment over the top to make it smooth.  After they are cold, the parchment peels right off.  Put in the fridge or freezer to help them solidify before serving.  Once they are set, cut them into 1/2 inch-1 inch squares and put in another container for storage.

Important note:  These get REALLY soft outside the fridge, so make sure you store them in the fridge or freezer and serve them cold.

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