Food & Wine (September 2011)
Don't you feel like this recipe name is just begging to be followed by an exclamation point? "Incan Super-Power Bars! Power-blasted with ancient Incan energy secrets to give you the boost you need!!! INCAN SUPER-POWER BARS!!!"
No? Just us?
Well, here's a sentence that definitely needs to end in an exclamation point: Zach is running a marathon! (Actually, maybe that calls for an interrobang: Zach is running a marathon‽)
Anyway, yes, Zach's running the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30 here in D.C. It's his first marathon, and he's been training since May. Prior to this, the most either one of us had ever run was the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler, which we've run the past two years.
Sidenote: The team that Zach is training with is called Team to End AIDS. It's a very, very good cause, and all the fundraising proceeds go to AIDS United and the Washington AIDS Partnership. If you'd like to donate to Zach's fundraising page -- even a buck, or five bucks or 10 bucks -- you'd be helping out an excellent organization. And we would love you forever.
As a result of all the running he's been doing over the past several months, Zach has blissfully been eating everything in sight. (Seriously, we should have purchased stock in a peanut butter company this summer....) He's constantly been on the hunt for foods that are nutritious, delicious and full of energy.
Which is why we were thrilled to find these Incan Super-Power Bars (Incan Super-Power Bars!!!).
Packed with ingredients like wheat germ and sunflower seeds, these bars are definitely a healthful snack. And with dense, high-energy foods like quinoa flakes and almonds, they really do live up to their super-power promise.
What we were really excited about, though, was the chance to cook with some ingredients we'd never encountered before. The chia seeds, wheat germ and Incan berries (in addition to the quinoa flakes) were all new to us. To our somewhat surprise, we were able to find all the ingredients at Whole Foods. It was a bit of a scavenger hunt: The quinoa flakes were located near boxed rice; the Incan berries (which were indeed labeled "dried cape gooseberries," as the recipe indicates they may be) were found on a random hook at the end of the baking aisle.
Sourcing all these ingredients ain't cheap, though. The total price tag for this ingredient list was north of $40 (not including brown sugar, butter and vanilla, which we already had on hand). That's a pricey snack -- maybe the Incas were richer than we thought!
One note about the prep: When we took the bars out of the oven after the recipe-recommended 10 minutes, they still seemed really soft and pliable. We feared that even after they had cooled, they would still be too soft to slice into smaller bars. So we popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes, cooled and sliced them and they were exactly firm enough. Our advice? Just keep a close eye on yours. You don't want to overcook them so they're brittle and hard. But they should be firm enough so they don't fall apart.
So how do they taste?
They're great! Actually, really great! All the base ingredients are earthy and crunchy and delicious, sort of like a multi-grain granola bar. The tart cherries are a great counterpoint to the agave nectar and brown sugar, which add just the right amount of sweetness. And the Incan berries really do taste unlike anything we've had before, sort of a cross between a raisin and a fig, but with a flavor more like coffee. They're really good.
Packed with yummy flavors and full of natural energy? These Incan Super-Power Bars actually really do live up to their name. Exclamation point!
TOTAL TIME: 45 mins plus 20 mins cooling
MAKES 2 DOZEN 3 1/2-BY-1-INCH BARS
2 cups quinoa flakes (7 ounces)
1 cup sliced blanched almonds (3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup salted roasted sunflower seeds (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
3/4 cup golden berries, also known as Incan berries and dried cape gooseberries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 cup tart dried cherries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons agave syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°. On a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, toss the quinoa with the almonds and toast for 20 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, golden berries and cherries.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly butter the paper. Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a 7-by-12-inch rectangle, pressing lightly to compact it; use a straight edge to evenly press the sides. Bake the bar for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. [Bitten Word note: We found that we needed to cook the bars for 20 minutes in order for them to be firm enough to slice.] Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
Invert the bar onto a work surface and peel off the paper. Cut the bar into twelve 1-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip in half to form twenty-four 1-by-3 1/2-inch bars.