"You should sell these!" has been a common reaction to these bars lately.
We're crazy for these bars in our house. In fact, I had to set a one-per-person-per-day limit when I realized that I was baking at least 3 batches in a week! I couldn't keep up with such a high demand!
That was over a year ago now, but I still continue to keep a constant supply of them in the house. And I've got to say, I am so unbelievably grateful for this recipe. It is my adoration and appreciation for which these bars are named, as Love Bars were a real life-changer for me and my food restrictions. The original recipe just needed one little tweak to make it allergy-free, and I have never felt like it was missing a thing. It's one of those recipes that is super flexible, and easy, and good for you, and just really freaking good. Honestly, I think this recipe may have been the catalyst for creating this website in the first place. Now that's love!
So I thought I'd share the 'Love' this holiday season. These bars are substantial and very satisfying when you need a good snack to keep you going. Why not make a batch to have on hand for when you venture out to the stores? Or as a secret stash for that holiday event in case there is nothing safe for you to eat? Or share the love and make a special batch for someone who's putting in the overtime and could use a pick me up? (Come to think of it, I may very well give these instead of cookies this year!)
First of all — the answer is no. No, I do not usually take the time to cut the bars into hearts when I make them. But for the sake of this blog post, I opted to try it and it worked. It also gave me the idea to morph these into a Valentine's Day treat for the kiddos — maybe with some added cacao powder to make them look more like brownies. Hmmm...
I first got turned on to making my own protein bars when I came across this post by Sarah Britton, who is absolutely one of my favorite bloggers. In her recipe, Sarah calls for hemp protein powder, which I tried but found to be bitter. I then tried Organic Yellow Pea Powder, which has a milder flavor, and I really enjoyed those bars. But then I ran out of the powder one day, and decided to make the bars without it, and I've left it out ever since. Why? Well, the flavor didn't change much at all and the consistency was the same. Yes, the protein count dropped a little bit but it's still nutritionally dense. But if you're looking for a way to add yellow pea protein powder to the bars on the cheap you can do what I did: I bought a bag of organic dried split yellow peas and a new coffee bean grinder on sale, then used the grinder to turn the peas into a fine powder. So for less than $20, I able to make 3 to 4 times the amount for the same price as the specialty powder.
This recipe is really flexible, which makes it easy to switch out flavors and customize the bars according to your taste. For example: the bananas are great in the recipe, but I've also substituted applesauce, and blueberry or pumpkin puree with great success. It's fun to play with the recipe according to what I have on hand, and it also ensures that we don't get bored with them. The only thing I wouldn't really mess with is the chia mix that works as the binder in the recipe.
I send the pumpkin seeds for a spin in the mini chop before adding them to the mix. Don't go crazy and turn them into pumpkin seed butter. You just want them to be chopped up a bit. It makes for a creamier texture to the bars and also makes the seeds easier to digest. If you prefer more of a crunch, however, you can certainly leave them whole. (And don't worry about cleaning the mini chop before adding the wet ingredients to it. It's all going into the same mix!)
The sweetness of the bars will vary depending on how ripe your bananas are. If my bananas are still bright yellow and don't show the brown flecks and bruises yet, I will usually add an extra tablespoon of maple syrup to the mix.
The coconut oil is a breeze to work with in the summer months, but in cooler weather you will want to warm it up a bit so it mixes well with the wet ingredients.
I try to make a double batch whenever possible. After they've cooled, I cut and wrap them individually so they're easy to grab and go. What we will eat within two days goes in the fridge, the rest goes in the freezer. Then when the rations in the fridge are gone I just replace them with a new batch from the freezer. You can stick them in a toaster oven to defrost them quickly, but I feel like I should warn you: they are even more addictive when they're fragrant and warm, and the chocolate chips are soft and gooey.
I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled with love, and may this recipe become as much a gift for you as it has been for me in my life!
The 8SAFE processed ingredients that I used for this recipe were: Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Cooking Oats, Let's Do Organic shredded, unsweetened Coconut, Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract, and Enjoy Life Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips. Please be sure to double check the contents of all the ingredients you use. Certain manufacturers use soy in their dried berries, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. And as always, use organic ingredients whenever possible.
A recipe is only 8SAFE if it is free of gluten and the top eight food allergens. Please be mindful of this when selecting products to use in this recipe, and double check the ingredients of the products you use.
2 Tbsp chia seeds
6 Tbsp water
1 1/2 cups gluten free quick oats
1 cup finely shredded coconut flakes
1/2 cup allergy-free chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried goji berries (or dried cranberries, chopped)
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
3/4 cup chopped pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp himalayan sea salt
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp 100% pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix the chia seeds and water together in a small bowl and set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
Add the bananas, coconut oil, vanilla, and maple syrup in the mini chop and mix until it's blended smooth. Add the chia gel to the mix and give it a quick mix to incorporate. (Alternately, you can mash the ingredients with a fork and whisk until smooth, then incorporate the chia seeds and water). Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
Spread the mixture evenly into a 9x11 (or similar size) baking pan and smooth out the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges start to brown. Remove from oven, and let cool completely before cutting into bars. Enjoy!