I’ll have a peanut butter energy bar; hold the salmonella.
In case you haven’t heard, America’s second-annual peanut-butter related salmonella outbreak is underway. This year, the contaminated peanut butter source has been linked to commercial-sized tubs produced by Peanut Corp. of America used by food manufacturers in many popular snacks for humans and canines alike, as well as in food service operations to make things like PB&J sandwiches for kids’ school lunches. (Click here for a link to the full recall list.) While individually-sized jars of peanut butter that you may have at home are not part of this recall, it’s worth checking the list to see if you have any of the affected cookies, snack cakes, bars or dog treats lying around the house.
So how does salmonella get into your peanut butter, you may ask? Well, the cause this time around is not yet known. But last year’s recall of contaminated Peter Pan peanut butter stemmed from sanitation conditions at the factory, where a leaky roof dripped contaminated water into post-production peanut butter. (It is suspected that the water itself became contaminated from contact with birds on the roof of the building, since birds and poultry–unlike peanuts–are common carriers of the salmonella bacteria.) Since you don’t cook peanut butter before eating it (which would kill the bacteria), a contaminated batch is likely to make you sick.
Gross. It’s enough to make one want to swear off all packaged foods entirely.
Well, perhaps we’ll start with baby steps. How about finding a home-made replacement for those peanut-butter-flavored energy bars that were subject to this latest recall? (Which include any peanut-butter containing flavors of Clif, Luna or ZonePerfect bars, as well as Nature’s Path Peanut Butter Optimum Energy bars.) I’ve been meaning to come up with a good alternative to these types of bars anyway, since they tend to be high in added sugar and loaded with heavily-processed soy protein isolate (SPI), which is an ingredient that’s been showing up in everything from my breakfast cereals to my granola bars and one that I have trouble with digestively and philosophically.
So I set off to find recipes that I could make or modify to be the all-time best salmonella-free-peanut-butter-bar snack ever.
Online searching brought me to this Breakfast Bar recipe from a May, 2005 issue of Body & Soul magazine. I modified it to replace the gluten-containing spelt flakes with quinoa flakes, but clearly that step would be optional depending on your preferences and what’s available locally. If you’re using salted nuts, don’t add in the additional salt that the recipe calls for. Also, I thought the 1/2 cup of honey was a bit calorie-excessive on top of all those nuts in the recipe, so I tried 1/3 cup instead. Due to this reduction, my mixture needed a smidge more wetness when I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together, so 1 TBSP applesauce did the trick. Generally speaking, applesauce, pumpkin puree or fruit butters (apple butter, pumpkin butter, etc..) make good substitutes for some part (no more than half) of the oil, butter, honey or corn syrup, especially in baking recipes like this, where you’re not worried about batter or dough rising. Since they’re much less calorically-dense, they’ll help lighten up the recipe without anyone noticing much difference in taste.
The results were great: a slightly chewy bar with crispy edges that tasted like real food (because it is) and wasn’t cloyingly sweet like a store-bought one. It was more of a nut and fruit bar than a peanut-buttery-tasting bar.
If you cut this recipe into 8 bars as the instructions say, I estimate each one would have ~250 calories (about the same as a peanut butter Clif bar), 11g of (mostly healthy) fat from the nuts and flaxseeds; 5g of protein, and 33g of carbohydrate, of which 4g is fiber. Of course, you may cut smaller bars if you like the sound of this recipe but don’t want a 250-calorie bar.
Another search brought me to this Martha Stewart recipe for Peanut-Butter granola bars.I followed her recipe to the letter and the results were deelish–it was a crispier/crumblier bar that was slightly sweeter and peanut butterier than the first recipe. If you cut the pan into 16 bars as the recipe specifies, each one will contain: ~130 calories, 6g protein, 9g of fat and 12g of carbohydrate, of which 1.5g is fiber. If you cut it into 8 bars, then just double these numbers for the nutritional info.
Since it’s a more traditional oat-based bar, it may or may not work for you if you have celiac disease. Most, but not all, gluten-intolerant people can tolerate up to 1 cup of cooked oats/day, which is 1/4 cup dry oats. You can always use certified gluten-free oats to be on the safe side; my own personal experience is that some brands of conventional oats, like Quaker, are fine, while others–like store brands– wreak havoc on me. But everyone is different, so GF oats may just be your best bet. Otherwise, you can substitute quinoa flakes, which is essentially using rolled whole quinoa instead of rolled whole oats. This substitution will work in any recipe calling for rolled oats, by the way.
A parting thought on homemade energy bars
These bars have a healthy amount of protein, but it will still be less protein than a store-bought bar since they are not fortified with soy protein isolate. Since most Americans eat twice the amount of protein per day than they actually need, I doubt this should send anyone into dire nutritional straits. Therefore, the calorie profile will be more skewed toward (healthy) fats and a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates. That’s what makes them energy bars! (You don’t want to be burning protein for energy!) Total calories are what matter at the end of the day as far as weight management goes, and these bars are made primarily of whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats at the same calorie levels as processed, store-bought bars. Therefore, I’d say they make a good, healthy, unprocessed substitute. Have one of these babies with a mug of green tea at 3pm and you won’t pillage the fridge from ravenous hunger when you get home from work.
Besides, these homemade versions are 100% salmonella free. And your house smells like delicious baking yumminess for hours after you’ve made these. How many processed bar manufacturers can make those claims?Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.