Watching yet another excruciating episode of the Apprentice the other night, I cringed more than usual, as I watched the contestants, allegedly smart, successful, business-savvy people, attempting to come up with a ‘healthy’ snack. I have been making these for over a year myself, using superfoods, grains, seeds and the likes. None of the contestants had any clue as to what are nutritional values or what such super foods are (baobab.. what a mystery).
Rubbish TV aside, one of my latest addiction in terms of healthy food is something I discovered only last summer when I was on holiday in Mexico and found myself one morning browsing a corner shop. I picked up a bar called ‘Alegria’, made with exotically named ‘amaranth‘. I confess my ignorance, it was not a grain I was familiar with. I loved those bars and once back in the UK, I started reading about amaranth and learned it is an ancient grain, used by the central american people for centuries (as well as in the Indian sub continent) and prepared for ritual ceremonies by the Atzecs. It is the highest protein-content in any grain, is also gluten free and to me, its delicious. it can be boiled or cooked like barley or quinoa but I have not attempted that yet. Instead I have been popping it pretty much like corn and making my own version of the classic Alegrias (made with honey, sugar and almonds primarily). I am addicted! They are nutty, crunchy, sweet as much as one likes and packed of nutrients and protein so perfect for a pre or post workout almost guilt free snack. I bought a pack by Biona available in health shops in London.
Here is my recipe:
Amaranth Energy Bars
makes 4 large / 8 small
40gr raw honey (I always use single origin)
10gr date syrup
15gr maple syrup
10gr soft brown sugar (I used mou sugar I bought in Mauritius, with a gorgeous caramel flavour)
30gr pumpkin seed butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
18gr hazelnuts (I used Slow Food Cilento nuts)
5gr hemp seeds
20gr mixed seeds
1/2 tsp lucuma powder (optional)
50gr popped amaranth
First of all, you need to pop the grains. It takes a little to get to the right popping, and you might throw away some seeds in the process. I certainly did! Heat a large pan on high heat, with a lid on (this is important … you will see why). Once really hot, place a tablespoon or so of grains inside and close the lid, monitoring closely. Enjoy what happens next, I love it – it reminds me of fireworks for some reason! Keep shaking the pan lightly to avoid burning the popped grains. Place them in a bowl and continue until you have enough. It goes a long way. Set aside.
Chop the hazelnuts and place in a large bowl with the lucuma, the cranberries and the seeds, adding a pinch of salt as well. Add the popped amaranth and mix well.
In a small pan, heat the honey, the syrups, the sugar the butter and the vanilla essence, being careful not to boil it. Add it to the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure everything is coated and sticking. Once ready, fill a single baking tray previously lined with parchment or silicon mold. I used 4 small individual silicon molds (10 x5 cm) with no lining. Press the mix well and flatten it with the back of a spoon. Cover and once cooled, place in the fridge for a few hours. it will become harder and shaped but it will be crumbly!
Cut to the desired size,wrap in cling film or parchment and enjoy them – they last well for a number of days. A small bar has around 100 calories.
I have made these so often, they are easy and fun to make and of course, delicious to eat. There are some variations on ingredients, and of course, anyone can play and experiement. The nut butter can be replaced by any nut butter; adding more sugar will harden them. Here are some more ideas:
- Dates, pecans and a pinch of cinnamon
- Pistachios, cranberries and cocoa nibs
- Almonds, dates and coconut flakes