Savory Meal Replacement Bars

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I love to eat meal replacement bars.  They are easy to carry, they have pre-measured calories, and they can be stored for a long time.  They are ideal in emergency situations when you need to pack a lot of food in a small amount of space.  Like to go camping or hiking?  They are a great way to keep your energy up without adding too much weight to your pack. There's just one problem with them:  Most are too sweet for me.

Popular selling meal replacement bars tend to favor the sweet, or the chocolate.  This isn't a problem with the company's ability to create them, but rather what the market demands.  Give someone a choice between a chocolate chip bar or a bar with meat and salt in it, they will opt for the sugar.  This isn't bad, because calories are generally the same both ways.  But for those of us who like something a bit more, savory, we are out of luck.

Unless we make our own.

I've actually found a couple of websites with recipes for savory bars, but even those seemed too sweet.  So I started to think:  What do I need for a bar?  I need filler, which is generally your grain.  I need flavor, which can be any number of things, and I need a binder.  Sweet bars tend to use sugars as their binders, but you can also use starches or proteins as binders to keep everything together.  So, after some careful thinking, here are two recipes I made.

Tomato Chicken and Rice

  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced chicken strips (between 1/4 in. to 1/8 in)  I prefer dark meat, as it's very flavorful and still very light on the calories
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1teaspoon Poultry Seasoning (sage and thyme, if you don't have a pre-mix)

Combine the sliced chicken, salt, and seasoning.  Let them cure with this rub for at least an hour, and then throw them into a convection oven (if you don't have one, you can use a regular oven) at it's lowest setting (I did mine at 200 degrees) for at least 2 hours.  This will dry out the meat until it's like jerky, which is just what you want. Then combine:

  • 2 cups puffed rice (like Rise Crispies)
  • 1/2 cup soy nuts (or your chosen nuts)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chicken jerky
  • 1/4 cup potato or tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup soy protein flour

Mix well and then add your binder, which is:

  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pepper to taste (there is already plenty of salt from the jerky)

Mix them together quickly and place them in a small, greased pan.  Then bake the mixture together at 300 degrees (mostly to dry it out as well as cook the egg) for 25 minutes.  When done, remove and cut up into bars.  I got 8 good bars this way, and they really did taste like Tomato Chicken and Rice soup.

But suppose you don't like that one, and want to go for something a bit more adventurous:

Chicken Tikka Masala

  • 1/4 lb thinly sliced chicken strips (between 1/4 in. to 1/8 in)  I prefer dark meat, as it's very flavorful and still very light on the calories
  • 4 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger

Combine the ingredients.  Let them marinate for at least an hour (I like going overnight normally, but the pieces will be thin enough that after an hour it will be good to go), and then throw them into a convection oven (if you don't have one, you can use a regular oven) at it's lowest setting (I did mine at 200 degrees) for at least 2 hours.  This will dry out the meat until it's like jerky, which is just what you want. Then combine:

  • 2 cups puffed rice (like Rise Crispies)
  • 1/2 cup soy nuts (or your chosen nuts)
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chicken jerky
  • 1/4 cup potato or tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup soy protein flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala

Mix well and then add your binder, which is:

  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pepper to taste

Mix them together quickly and place them in a small, greased pan.  Then bake the mixture together at 300 degrees (mostly to dry it out as well as cook the egg) for 25 minutes.  When done, remove and cut up into bars.  Just like the Tomato Chicken and Rice, this recipe does taste like chicken tikka masala, and yet it doesn't have the heavy caloric intake that you would get otherwise.  If you have a spouse that doesn't go for Indian food, and you crave it, this is the perfect fix.  And you can have it whenever you want!

So those are my recipes.  I've enjoyed them all this week, and I'm looking forward to making more.  I think I may replace the oil with yogurt in the binder the next time, in order to add a more creamy flavor to the bars, but other than that I don't think I would change a thing.