Peanut Butter & Banana Protein Bites (Vegan, Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Oil-free)

March 01, 2015

My close friend Nicole came by for a visit today. We co-chaired the women's collective together in university, and used to see each other every day, so it's been a bit rough not seeing her much for the last few months. Really, we only live a couple of hours away from each other, but it's been a while since our last visit. It's hard to go from seeing someone all the time like that to talking every once in a while and hanging out every few months. I'm happy to have held onto the friendship, despite those changes.

We talked a lot about how the transition from university to whatever we're doing now has been difficult for both of us. We're both kind of floating and haven't figured out what to do yet. University was this time where we were very "successful" (whatever that means). We had excellent grades, both worked a lot, and volunteered like crazy. It was a shock to go from being so highly involved in a community, or several communities - the university, the collective, our jobs, local artists - to having very little of that in our day to day lives. I'm lucky in that sense to still be connected to my local art gallery, but Nicole doesn't really have that right now. Neither of us jumped into a career right out of university, and we're still struggling to figure out what we plan on doing in the future. I think we both have an idea of doing something creative, but that takes time. We're working toward it. It's not just like you can get hired on at a creative endeavour and work there for the next forty years or something.

Anyway, I gave Nicole one of these little bites and she loved it. I always feel more confident about the recipes I'm putting out if I'm not the only person who's tried them. Some went home with her so she wouldn't starve on the drive, and she was super excited when I said I was posting the recipe today. Friends :)

I also have minor food poisoning from some undercooked beans today. If your beans aren't totally soft, don't eat them. My stomach hates me now.

Ahh, there's a reason I never take pictures like this! I do a lot of pottery, and my hands are always pretty rough looking. Whateva.

First of all, the wet mixture for this recipe is INSANE. It's so good. I wanted to eat all of it right out of the mixture. I have big plans for it in the summer! It's still way too cold to carry those plans out now though. (I wrote plants instead of plans first. It's also too cold to carry any plants outside.)

When I say this recipe is sugar free, I mean it. All my recipes are refined sugar free, which means sticking to more natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. Raw honey, obviously, is a very natural sugar, but it's just not the same as using fruit. I've used bananas and dates here for a nice subtle sweetness, and the peanut butter helps in that department. Chocolate chips don't hurt either. This is a great snack to help you through the day, and I promise they won't fall apart in your bag. They are not light and fluffy little treats. You're looking at dense, protein + nutrient packed, and ultra tasty little bombs. Homely little guys.

TWO PICTURES? Woooah. Check 'em out. Hands. More importantly, check out what these little guys look like on the inside.

One more thing before the recipe! See the boards I'm using in the pictures for this post? It's an old letterpress drawer I picked up. I'm finally starting to build up my prop supplies again. It smells like dust. It's old.

Makes ~16 bites

2 large, overripe bananas
1/2 cup dates, packed
1/2 cup unsweetened, natural peanut butter*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups quick-cook oats*
1/4 cup chopped nuts*
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

If you have a food processor, whiz up the bananas, dates, peanut butter, and vanilla until completely smooth. Otherwise, mash everything very well with a fork. Soak the dates beforehand if they aren't very soft, especially if you're not using a processor.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, chia, chocolate chips, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add the banana mixture and mix until fully incorporated. It's pretty hard to mix, don't give up!

Take heaped tablespoons of the mixture and shape into rough balls with your hands. You can skip the ball making part if you don't care, and leave them rustic (codeword for I don't give a shit what they look like). Place onto the baking sheet about an inch apart. They don't spread very much, so don't worry about that.

Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350F. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack for a couple of minutes, or until the bites can be handled. Remove and cool completely on the rack. Keep refrigerated or frozen.

1. If your peanut butter has salt listed as an ingredient, cut the amount of added salt in half.
2. To be guaranteed gluten free, make sure your oats say that they are. Oats are naturally gluten free but are often contaminated by wheat in processing facilities.
3. Use whatever nuts you have on hand. I used pecans, but I think walnuts would be really nice too.

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