I have always loved words. Vocabulary and semantics have intrigued me for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I was a voracious reader and spend a lot of my free time journaling or writing stories. I was someone who never dreaded a research or writing assignment in school and approached nearly every such project with absolute fervor (I unfortunately cannot say the same was true for pre-calculus which was nearly the death of both me and my poor mother who had to resurrect the what-I-would-consider-useless information from the cobwebs of her high school days to help me barely survive the semester).
Fast forward to today, while I am now living as an expat in Cork, Ireland. What I had once regarded as black and white laws of English grammar have seemed to become a bit more fuzzy. The “Z’s” have become “S’s,” things start at “half four” or “1630,” instead of 4:30, and instead of a company being regarded as a singular entity/noun, it is often referred to in plural form as in the collection of individuals that comprise it (for example, Company X are very successful as opposed to Company X is very successful). Additionally, many of the common phrases require some adjustments to be made. My favorite Irish person and the studio owner where I teach barre and Reformer, Julette, and I love to go for coffee at a local café during the week and chat over breakfast between classes. When we are handed our delicious Americanos (for “take away” and not “to go” 🙂 ), she will usually say “thanks a mil!” with a big smile on her face. I, conversely, would usually respond with a “thanks – have a good day!” Although ultimately the barista will know what we mean either way, we have dissected the differences in each other’s standard “thank you” message and find each other’s approach equally excessive, if not a bit insincere. I find it a little over the top to say “thanks a MIL!” in such small encounters (being handed a cup of coffee, someone holding the door open, etc.) while she pointed out that us “Americans are being overly optimistic that someone will have a good day” and that it is something we say on autopilot rather than actually wishing them well. Hmmm….
One word that fascinates me, is the controversial term “superfood.” As defined by Wikipedia (a source I am certain my English professors would not appreciate my citing) a superfood is “a marketing term used to describe foods with supposed health benefits.” A vast amount of nutrient dense foods have been classified in this prestigious category with claims of helping to fight disease, making skin clearer, improving memory, or aiding in weight loss efforts. While I tend to be more than a bit skeptical about any one ingredient or food item as a magic bullet which makes the consumer look up to 10 years younger, gives more energy, makes her a better singer in the shower, and helps her to lose 20 pounds, etc., I will say that there are some benefits which are well substantiated or at least relatively innocuous if you do want to give it a try. If you asked me if drinking collagen peptides in my coffee every morning has actually improved my skin and joints, it would be challenging to determine the absolute effectiveness of collagen separate from the confounding variables of the other many foods I eat or lifestyle habits I have tried to develop. Nevertheless, loaded terminology aside, I do try to incorporate some so-called superfoods into my diet because 1. they are mostly delicious and 2. while (probably) overstated in some cases, they actually do have some documented health benefits. And these Chocolate Hemp Protein Bars meet the requirements of both of the aforementioned points – they are the real deal. Full of said superfood ingredients with key micronutrients and none of the added sugars or preservatives; they are Paleo, Vegan, and Whole30 compliant and make a good on-the-go snack option. Also, they freeze well so you can hide a stash for a rainy day without worrying about them going bad (or eating them all in a day).
Serves: at least 12
- Pitted Dates 20 each
- Walnuts .5 cup (60 g)
- Milled Chia Seeds .25 cup (90 g)
- Hemp Protein Powder 1 cup (100 g)
- Hemp Hearts .5 cup (80 g)
- Raw Cacao Powder 1 cup (100 g)
- Unsweetened White Mulberries .25 cup (35g)
- Cacao Nibs 3 TBSP
- Pepitas 25 cup (28 g)
- Dried Cherries (I prefer tart as opposed to sweet) .5 cup (35 g)
- Melted Coconut Oil .25 cup (60 ml)
- Unsweetened Almond or Cashew Butter .25 cup (60 ml)
- Spirulina Powder 2 TBSP
- Cinnamon 1 TSP
- Make sure you use all ingredients which are free from any added sugars or preservatives to maximize the taste and benefits of these bars.
- Begin by soaking the dates in a small bowl just covered with water overnight or at least 2 hours. If you are in a rush, you can also place in the microwave for about 1 minute to soften the dates. Either way, save the water used.
- Line a 9x9 inch baking sheet with parchment/baking paper with a bit of excess over the edges to facilitate easy removal later on.
- In a blender or food processor, add pulse the walnuts until they are ground into a coarse powder/flour.
- Transfer the walnuts to a large mixing bowl and add in the milled chia seeds, hemp protein powder and hearts, the raw cacao powder and nibs, the mulberries and pepitas.
- In the same blender or food processor (no need to clean in between), add the soaked dates, the cherries, coconut oil and nut butter of your choice. The dates will make things very thick and sticky, so you may need to add a small amount of the reserved water at a time to allow the ingredients to combine and achieve a somewhat smooth consistency. Remember to start small with the water and add more as necessary to avoid making the mixture too soupy.
- Then add this mixture to the bowl with the spirulina and cinnamon and mix thoroughly. You can use a rubber spatula or your hands to combine really well. Things will be sticky and a bit messy.
- Once combined, scoop the mix into the prepared pan and smooth out with the spatula or your hands into an even layer. You can smooth out the top by dipping your fingertips into water and pressing gently across the prepared bars. They will finish the way that you have them packed in this phase.
- Place in the freezer for at least two hours.
- Remove the pan from the freezer and lift the parchment paper and solid bar from the pan, placing on a cutting board. Then slice into evenly sized bars or smaller bits. You may need to allow a few minutes at room temperature for softening.
- I generally wrap each bar individually with plastic wrap and then store some in the refrigerator so that I can enjoy them throughout the week and the rest in the freezer for up to two months for a rainy day.