Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sweet Potato Quinoa Granola Bars and Thumbs-Up Running

I'm a thumbs-up runner. And that doesn't mean I'm so excited to be running that I throw thumbs-up signals to everyone else on the streets (though I'm known for an occasional high-five). It means that my hands naturally get into stiff little thumbs-up positions while I run, which, if you test it out right now, you'll discover requires some effort by your muscles. Go ahead - bend your elbows at your sides and look at the natural position of your hands. Then see how many muscles you have to use to form a thumbs-up. Newsflash: while they may put a smile on someone's face, thumbs-up don't make you any faster or more efficient.

I bring this to your attention, not so you that can spot me in a race, but so that next time you're running (or biking or rollerblading or moon bouncing) you stop to think about your body position and any unnecessary energy you might be expending on tense muscles. Take five seconds to consider the muscles that are flexed and whether they are actually helping you with your activity. If not, make an effort to shake em out every once in awhile.

Though I can't stop myself from thumbs-upping completely, now that I'm aware of it, I can release the tension in my hands and wrists when I think of it and give my body a break from spending needless energy keeping my fingers tight and my thumbs up. That way, more of my kcals can go towards getting me from point A to point B.  
After this past weekend's rain-riddled, thumbs-up run (with plenty of conscious hand relaxation!), I came home and I really wanted some calories. In my body. Stat. Enter sweet potato quinoa granola bars. A delightful blend of carbs, fiber and protein. If I had to compare them to a commercial product, I would say they are most like Larabars in consistency. I haven't come across a Larabar that uses oats or grains (or whatever mysterious family quinoa is in), so nutritionally, they aren't the same. But these bars have a fruit-chewy bite to them, rather than the crispy-chewy feel of regular packaged granola bars. I will call mine Katibars.

Sweet potato quinoa bars would be great to bring on a long bike ride or hike. Between the fruit, sweet potato puree and agave syrup, the sugar content is high; and the nuts and quinoa provide some protein. The fiber content is also high from the oats and quinoa, so be conscious of what your body is used to while working out.
Side note: when I was studying for the bar exam, I signed up for pottery class as a stress-relieving, extra-curricular activity. In my head I imagined throwing serving bowls and two-foot vases; Christmas gifts galore! In reality, I ended up with boatloads of condiment bowls and a rough, rough, cream pitcher. So I'm giving them some mileage on this blog. Hence the photo of just a bowl. Thx for indulging.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Granola Bars

Makes 12 bars

2.5 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup roughly chopped nuts (I used half pecans, half almonds)  
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Toast the uncooked quinoa on the stove in a wide pan over low heat, 8-10 minutes, stirring often (quinoa grains will pop in the pan). Mix oats, spices, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, stir together sweet potato puree, vanilla and agave. Add wet mix to oat mix, making sure that all oats are moistened. Stir in quinoa, nuts and cranberries.

Line an 8" or 9" square pan with one piece of parchment paper so that the edges of the parchment paper hang over two opposite edges of the pan (so that you can lift the bars out of the pan after baking). Press granola mix into the lined pan.

Tip: to press the granola evenly into the pan, spread mixture around and cover top with wax paper. Then use a smaller pan or heavy square/rectangular item to press down on the wax paper. Repeat this process over all of the granola until even.

Bake at 325 for 22-25 minutes. Let granola cool in pan; remove for easy cutting. Then enjoy your own [name]bars.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Two updates based on questions from my many adoring fans:

    1) You're welcome to make your own sweet potato puree, but I used canned sweet potato. Pumpkin would also work well.

    2) The lovely Lisa at the The Splattered Apron blog mentioned that a running coach suggested she run with her "thumbs up" (i.e., thumbs on top so that wrists stay parallel to your body). This makes sense and probably helps with good running form. I'm only suggesting that if you end up with clenched fists and stick straight thumbs (like me) to give them a break occasionally. Thumbs need love too.

  3. I am making these this weekend!!! You get two thumbs up from me.


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