High Protein, Vegan, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip & Coconut Granola Bars!

One night before my bootglampers (glamorous bootcampers) came over for a tough morning training sesh, I decided I'd treat them to (what I'd hope would be) an awesome recovery treat. We often do protein shakes, but I wanted to mix it up a bit and go a little more decadent.  I had made granola bars in the past and decided to see if I had enough items in the pantry to make a go at a batch again.  My goals were to make them:

  • Gluten free
  • Vegan
  • High in protein
  • Low in processed sugar
  • Delicious!

And after I was done with my experimenting, I'm not gonna lie, the results were ah-mazing!  I totally loved them.  But I knew the true test would come once I gave them to 14 hungry bootglampers that had just worked their butts off for an hour.  

And YAY - the bootglampers loved them too!  And then they all started asking for the recipe ... so I'm going to do my best to recreate it below. Hope you enjoy!

RECIPE:
First off, note that you can be very creative with this recipe!  This won't be like true baking where your measurements need to be exact.  Just throw things in the bowl and see what happens! I'm guesstimating the measurements below, but if you find they're too wet or too dry once you're done mixing, just add more wet or dry ingredients to get to the desired texture.  And as for add-ons (nuts, coconut, chocolate chips, etc) ... the world is your oyster!  I happened to throw in what I had (I used almonds for the first batch and hazelnuts for the second batch - both were killer). You can literally throw in whatever you like that's in your pantry (although, obvs, reach for those healthier items you have in the pantry. I might leave the chips and Oreos outta this one ... ;-)).  Go for dried fruit, nuts, seeds, coconut, spices, etc.  Experiment! Make 'em seasonal!  (You best believe in the fall I'll be making some with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice and in the winter there will be mint and dark chocolate versions!)

Preparation:
- Preheat conventional oven to 350*F
- Lightly spray an 8x8 (or similar sized) baking pan and set aside.

Ingredients:
- 2 cups instant gluten free oatmeal (I used 4 packages of the unsweetened / unflavored Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal)
- 1/2 cup (or so) of Organic, Vegan Protein Powder (I used Orgain Organic Vanilla Protein Powder.)  
- 1/4 cup or so of nut butter (I used organic, unsweetened peanut butter, but almond or sunflower butters would also be delish!)
- 1/4 cup of unsweetened, vanilla almond milk
- Two tablespoons of flax seeds, ground
- A tablespoon or two of cinnamon (depending upon how much you like cinnamon.  I looooove cinnamon)
- A handful of sprouted pumpkin seeds
- 5-6 pitted dates, chopped
- A couple (*ahem* heaping) tablespoons of vegan chocolate chips
- A tablespoon or two of shredded, unsweetened coconut
- A handful of hazelnuts or almonds (or walnuts, or cashews, etc), rough chopped
- A tablespoon or two of organic maple syrup (how much sweetener you put in will depend upon the flavor of the other ingredients.  If you're adding dates or other dried fruits, or if your protein powder is already sweetened, you'll want to add less).
- A pinch of salt 

Directions:
Mix all your dry ingredients (oatmeal, protein powder, flax, cinnamon and salt) in a bowl.

Mix all your wet ingredients (nut butter, almond milk, maple syrup) in a bowl and, if necessary, microwave to warm them through and make them "stirrable" so they all incorporate together.

Mix your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients and stir around, ensuring all ingredients are well incorporated.  Add in all your "add-ons" (nuts, chocolate chips, dates, coconut, etc) and stir some more (you likely will just need to get in there with your hands now and smoosh it all about). 

Place your "dough" into the baking pan and smoosh it down, ensuring an even layer across the entire pan.  If you wish, you can also add some more of the "add-ons" to the top of the bars.  I sprinkled some extra chocolate chips and coconut to the top, you know, to make it pretty and stuff.  

Bake for approximately 18-22 minutes (the smaller the pan you used, the thicker the bar you'll have, so likely the longer the time you'll need to leave it in the oven. The edges will get slightly more golden than the rest once ready. Don't over bake!).

Allow to cool and then cut into SMALL bars.  These guys are VERY filling and a little goes a long way.  These ain't your grocery story granola bars!