Two New Energy Bar Recipes (with Tart Cherries!)

It’s been a full month that I’ve been drinking tart cherry concentrate, twice a day, and today I’ve got the promised third and final post in this series, including two new recipes and answers to some FAQ’s from my previous posts.

Once again, to be absolutely clear: this series was sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. It’s the first time I’ve done any sponsored blog content, and I really do appreciate any feedback you have about it.

Believe it or not, I was relieved to read in the comments of the second post that a lot of you tried the 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge and reported the same results I experienced with my shoulder — an otherwise inexplicable lessening (or even disappearance) of minor pain. I say “relieved” because I’m always so suspicious of supposed superfoods, thinking them usually to be little more than placebos, so it felt almost wrong to be reporting such overwhelmingly positive results in a sponsored series. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this whole experience, and while my shoulder hasn’t fully healed (I still plan on seeing a doctor to figure it out), I sleep so much better now that shoulder pain doesn’t wake me up.

So here we go with the two recipes (FAQ’s follow)! The first, Momo Granola bars, are from chef Mo Ferris, who contributed the recipe, along with two others, to my book. In this version, I doubled the amount of cherries (the best part anyway) and made sure to use tart cherries instead of sweet.

The second recipe is derived from the Ultimate Energy Bar Formula, also in the No Meat Athlete book but on the blog as well.

One more note: You’d need to eat 100 tart cherries per day to equal the amount of tart cherry concentrate (just one ounce, twice a day) that has been studied and shown to reduce muscle soreness. You’re never going to get that amount with these recipes, but hey, the dried tart cherries taste good! And it doesn’t hurt to get a few more throughout the day.

Momo Granola Bars with Extra Cherries

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  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw almonds (Mo suggests roasted, salted, but raw worked well for me)
  • ¼ cup rough chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup flax seed (I pulsed mine in the blender to barely chop)
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 cup chopped dried tart cherries (Mo’s original recipe calls for half this amount)
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter
  • 2 small pinches of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Chop almonds, pecans and dried cherries at least in half, but with most pieces being even smaller.

3. Place dried cherries into a large mixing bowl.

4. Spread oats, chopped nuts, flax seeds and hemp seeds onto an ungreased baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Gently shake and stir the oat mixture after 5 minutes of cooking to avoid burning the top layer and allowing both sides of the nuts and oats to brown.

5. Remove oat mixture from the oven and add to the bowl with the dried cherries. Add salt.

6. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees.

7. In a small saucepan, melt peanut butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once the peanut butter is melted and slightly thinner, remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. Mix thoroughly.

8. In a separate small saucepan add brown rice syrup. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Bubbles will begin to form along the sides of the pan and gradually move in towards the center. When bubbles get big and meet in the middle, immediately remove from heat and pour over the oat mixture.

9. Thoroughly mix, coat all ingredients with brown rice syrup and peanut butter.

10. While it is still warm, pour the mixture out into the corner of a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Using wax paper, firmly press and spread mixture into the shape of a rectangle that is ¼ inch thick (no gaps!). NOTE: the mixture will most likely not fill the entire sheet tray. Starting in a corner will give the rectangle 2 or 3 straight edges.

11. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes or just until the edges begin to brown.

12. Remove from oven and gently re-press the rectangle using the wax paper. Cool completely on the tray. Flip rectangle out onto a cutting board and cut into 3×5 inch bars.

13. Wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and store in a large ziplock bag.

Chocolate-Cherry Happy Bars

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  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup mashed banana
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups of oats
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup dried tart cherries
  • 3 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon water

In a food processor, combine black beans, almond butter, maple syrup, mashed banana, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth.

Add the oats, cocoa, and brown rice flour and pulse just to combine. Add the coconut and tart cherries and pulse again, just to combine. Add the tart cherry juice and water and pulse a few more times to mix. if it’s too runny, add an additional 1/4 cup of the brown rice flour.

Grease 13×9 pan with baking spray or rub with 1 tablespoon oil, then spread mixture into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Tart Cherries FAQ’s

The first two posts in this series, especially the second, generated a lot of questions from readers about the specifics of tart cherries. I didn’t know most of the answers, so I passed the questions along to the Cherry Marketing Institute and have paraphrased their answers here.

Where can you buy tart cherry juice/concentrate? If I can’t find it in my grocery store, can I get it online?

It’s quite possible you’ll find it in your local grocery store, but if not, ask the manager to source the product you are looking for. Montmorency tart cherries are available for national distribution, so sometimes it just takes consumer demand to put the product on the shelf. If you can’t get them locally, you can order online directly from most of the cherry processors.

What brand of cherries did you use for the challenge?

I didn’t know the brand during the challenge, and that was intentional (all the juice, concentrate, and cherries that they sent me for the experiment came free of labeling). The Cherry Marketing Institute didn’t want this to be about a particular brand, but about tart cherries in general. You can find a full list of processors here.

What about capsules or chewables? Are these as good as juice or concentrate?

You could have guessed this answer: whole foods are better. Our bodies don’t really know what to do with nutrients when they’re taken out of foods, and our scientific understanding of the complex interactions within foods and in our bodies doesn’t yet let us capture the essence of whole food in a pill. I’m not claiming that juice is a whole food, but it’s probably a lot closer than whatever goes into a pill. The science was done on tart cherry juice, so that’s what the cherry people recommend you use.

Are tart cherries something you might build up a tolerance to, and need to take more in the future to get the same anti-inflammatory effect?

This hasn’t been specifically tested. There’s no research to suggest that you would build up a tolerance and would need more. (Nor is there research to suggest that you wouldn’t, I think.)

What about melatonin in Montmorency cherries? Does anyone report drowsiness during the day?

Straight from the cherries people: “Tart cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, which is responsible for the regulation of the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle. Researchers believe it’s the combination of melatonin and the anthocyanins in tart cherries that might help you sleep better at night, but this effect should not impact drowsiness. The research examined sleep efficiency, meaning that participants sleep more soundly once they were asleep.”

Anecdotally, from me: I’ve slept better since drinking tart cherry concentrate, but I think that’s because my shoulder hurts so much less (it hurts much less in the daytime, too, so I don’t think it’s “I’m sleeping more deeply; therefore I don’t notice the shoulder pain at night”). I haven’t noticed any drowsiness during the day (and haven’t in several years since going vegetarian and then vegan — that, for me, has been one of the great benefits of eating this way).

Thanks again for your enthusiasm about and engagement with this series of posts.

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Comments

  1. Love tart cherry juice! Drink it for a week before a major race but now I’ll try to drink it regularly!

  2. Sorry. I know you’ve answered this a million times, but the wording is still confusing for me… So you were taking one ounce or two tablespoons twice per day for a total of two ounces or four tablespoons total? Your second post about the challenges still says that you were going to “Drink one tablespoon of tart cherry concentrate twice a day — once in the morning and once immediately post-run. (This is half the amount I wrote in the first post, where a reader pointed out my mistake and I corrected it before I began the challenge.)” I can’t seem to understand the wording!!!

    Also, do you happen to know if it is more effective to take the full ounce at once or if its okay to spread it out? I’ve been making tart cherry ice cubes (in hear shapes no less) with about 1/2 TBSP of concentrate in each and will pop them sporadically throughout the day. I still haven’t noticed an improvement in my muscle pain, but I’m only getting one ounce total at this point so I may just not be taking enough to notice an improvement as of yet.

    Thanks so much for doing this series. Even if it doesn’t help my muscle pain, the concentrate is a tasty addition to my life :)

  3. Debbie P. says:

    Well, here’s an odd question regarding the cherries you use in the recipes. I live in AL and had a friend who had a cherry tree and all we can grow here in the south are the tart cherries. They were too sour to eat, but I froze a few gallon bags to use in smoothies and recipes. So, I have frozen tart cherries – I wonder if those would work the same? Or would you definitely recommend dried? I sure would hate to have to buy dried cherries when I have a couple gallon ziploc bags in the freezer.

  4. Yum! These recipes look great! I love cherries sooo much. Just bonus if they’re healthy :-)

  5. Wow! Those momo granolas are perfect for my American football training! Definitely going to make a bunch of them! :D Thanks for the recipe!

  6. If your shoulder pain is happening a lot at night, you may want to be checked for frozen shoulder. Pain at night is a hallmark of this condition. I started having symptoms about 1.5 years ago and know the earlier you get treatment, the shorter recovery. Thanks for the info about tart cherry juice, too – I may just give it a try!

  7. Funny to run across this particular blog entry. I am an infrequent reader of your blog, though I do come here from time to time on a somewhat irregular basis. I always gain new insights.

    With that said, I had already begun my own experiment with tart cherries after reading of the benefits it has in pain management (and because I feel as though I have taken entirely too much ibuprofen over the course of my young life as is, so I am looking for a healthy alternative).

    Since I was 20 years old (32 now, soon to be 33), I have battled chronic lower back/hip pain, in what I have learned seems to stem from tight hips and my piriformis muscle. I actually screwed it up originally while working in construction. Unfortunately, exercise makes it flare up, despite stretching, foam roller use, and Epsom salt baths.

    I have been an athlete my entire life: primarily basketball, but over the last year and a half I began running every day — after reading one of your blog posts actually. Because of the recurrent pain, I had to scale back to 4-5 days a week instead.

    I, too, am noticing positive results since trying out tart cherries. I plan to continue the experiment to see if the effects are long lasting. I want to ensure I am not causing a placebo effect on myself because I have such high hopes for an ibuprofen alternative.

    Sorry this was so long. It’s just that I can relate to what you and others are going through. I’m not old. I don’t consider myself old. But I also don’t want to wake up feeling old anymore either. I want to get out there and play hard, and do it all over again the next day.

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