Something changed in the last month or so, and now I get up at 5 every morning and work out seriously hard before starting my day. The immediate rush is great, and I feel extra springy and glow-y all day. Sometimes I even squeeze in an additional late afternoon sweat. This is probably old hat for a lot of people, but this routine is weirdly new for me. My approach to fitness has always been admittedly leisurely. I’d do short runs for a time, almost always begrudgingly. I’d get into phases with yoga, outdoor stuff, and other activities, but overall my inclination to sweat on the regular has been non-committal at best.
When I was working on my book last year, anything outside of recipe testing, photos, note-taking, grocery/prop shopping etc felt self-indulgent. Even taking a pause to have a sit-down meal seemed unnecessary, which is a little strange given the overall context of what I do and talk about here. I spent most of the year absent-mindedly snacking, hunched over a notebook in my kitchen, or sitting at my desk. The work was very fulfilling, but I got so out of shape and out of touch with myself. I kind of pushed my physical self aside, and the force of it dragged other parts of my life along for the ride.
I know that I’m a better, happier, more whole person when I’m breaking a sweat every day. I feel more confident because I know that my body is capable of doing more. I work smarter and have way more energy throughout the day too. After I submitted my book (and after I got over the shock of having so much extra time), I started meal planning and making time for movement in earnest. Then some other positive habits came back into the picture. I stopped looking at my phone before I went to bed, I sipped warm lemon water in the mornings again, I slept 7 hours every night, I was nice to people pre-coffee… A bunch of goodness just spiralling right out of one relatively easy change.
I’ve been trying to make a decent vegan protein bar since I started working it out more often. It was a much more difficult undertaking than I thought it would be. At first, I tried to just make a bar out of naturally high plant protein ingredients–nuts, quinoa, bean flours, seeds etc. They all tasted like those ubiquitous date and nut bars (or way too bean-y). Then I tried going more grain-based and the results were too similar to a basic granola bar. I knew I had to incorporate some kind of concentrated powder into the base to get a smooth texture and higher protein count. After some playing around, I found a mix that I like with an added chocolate and coffee bonus. The base is hearty with ground oats and a little rich with almond butter and coconut milk. They’re great post-workout or… post/pre-whatever really :)
COCONUT MOCHA VEGAN PROTEIN BARS RECIPE
Print the recipe here!
Serves: Makes 12 large bars (see recipe notes)
Notes: I packed all of this into an 8×8 because that’s what I had, and a 9×13 seemed too big. If I had an 8×11, I would have gone with that (and had more bars). I find these to be quite filling and wound up cutting all the pretty bars pictured here into minis/squares. It’s really important to start with a protein powder that you love. There’s no added sweetener in this recipe because the powder that I use is sweetened enough on its own (in my opinion) and it brings a lot to the table flavour-wise. As always, the nut butter in this recipe could be replaced with any nut/seed butter you like.
3 cups certified gluten-free rolled oats
1 1/4 cups vegan vanilla protein powder
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely ground coffee
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/3 cups full fat coconut milk
3/4 cup almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 ounces dark, vegan chocolate
1 teaspoon coconut oil
unsweetened shredded coconut
hulled hemp seeds
Place the rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the oats until you have a coarse meal. You still want a few flakes of oats in the mix. Transfer the ground oats to a large bowl.
To the oats, add the protein powder, ground coffee, and sea salt. Stir to combine.
Add the coconut milk, almond butter, and vanilla to the bowl. Stir lightly to evenly distribute the liquid ingredients. Then, get in there with your hands and bring the mix together until all ingredients are evenly moist and sticking together.
Lightly grease a dish (see headnotes on size) with coconut oil and line it with parchment paper so that there’s some overhang on each side.
Transfer the bar mixture/”dough” to the prepared dish. Press it into the pan evenly and firmly. Press and pack it down as firmly as you can. Place the dish in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
Set a small saucepan with 1-2 inches of water over medium-low. Bring it to a simmer. Break up or chop the chocolate and transfer it to a non-reactive bowl. Add the coconut oil to the bowl as well. Let the chocolate and oil melt together until totally smooth. Keep warm.
Retrieve the dish from the refrigerator. Lift the slab out of the dish by the paper overhangs. Cut the slab into bars and arrange them on a plate/some parchment paper/on a cooling rack. Drizzle the bars with the melted chocolate/oil mixture and garnish with shredded coconut, cacao nibs, and hemp seeds if you like. Store bars in a sealed container in the refrigerator.