Sweet nothings

Call them what you like, energy bars, protein bars, snack bars, they’re usually full of shit, and I mean that in relation to both their ingredients list as well as their claims. You’re almost always better off grabbing a banana. In some cases, you’re probably even better off grabbing a bar of chocolate.

Most are made with cheap, low-quality ingredients, have loads of sugar, corn syrup, and additives, as well as processed soy for filler (there’s your protein, ew), and a million vitamins that you neither need nor want. Resist the marketing-speak, there is no point force-feeding your poor body vitamins in these revolting ways.

If you’re using them as meal replacements, I have two things to say to you.
1.     Ugh.
2.     Eat some real food please.

If you’re using them as snacks, or as a post-workout pick-me-up, that’s a whole other matter, but to be honest, you should still probably look at whole foods instead (i.e. nothing in a packet, or with a shelf life). There are times, however, and it would be silly to deny this, that you aren’t able to eat a proper meal, or when you’re hoofing it around town or it’s 3pm and you’re slumping at your desk. For those times there is a beacon of hope in the awful landscape of these bars, and that is the Yogabar. In a word: yum. And in a few more words, a great nut- and seed-filled bar that will not only satisfy the afternoon sugar slump, but will likely inspire a new set of cravings all its own.

This probably isn’t how their makers intended the bars to be used, but they make a great base for a no-nasties no-bake cold cheesecake

These bars not only taste good (so good) but they won't lead to a crash like most other high fructose corn syrup-laden bars. They’re also readily available at most stores, online on Amazon, and even some airports. Highly recommend the Vanilla Almond, which is lovely and sticky, and the peanut butter, which is just pain delish. This probably isn’t how their makers intended the bars to be used, but they make a great base for a no-nasties no-bake cold cheesecake I’ve been tinkering with. If the real stuff doesn’t make you feel awful, by all means, have at it. If, however, a New York style cheesecake makes you feel awful after (and I’m not talking about pangs of regret), then this one might be for you. Thanks to these bars (used here in lieu of a biscuit, butter, and flour base), and subbing in coconut milk, here’s the recipe for a raw, vegan, gluten- and sugar-free cheesecake that is genuinely delicious. It is also easier than any dessert I’ve made before so I am doubly besotted with it.

The recipe requires a little bit of prep, so before you even read the rest, go soak three cups of cashewnuts in water and leave them to soak overnight. If you’re in a rush, do at least three hours.

 Photography by Kartikeya Manan

Photography by Kartikeya Manan


Recipe

For the crust you’ll need:
3 or 4 Yogabars
1 cup of cacao nibs
Some coconut oil

Directions
Rough chop a few Yoga bars (if you’re not allergic to peanuts, I pick the peanut bar) and then either use a food processor, blender or your very capable hands (most effective) to create a crumbly mix. Add in one cupful of cacao nibs (I use Mason and Co.’s) and then blend until the nibs are fine and the mixture’s a rich, chocolatey colour. Pour in a little coconut oil and mix with a spoon before pressing the mix down into an even base in your cheesecake pan of choice. Try to get it as even as you can, and you can press extra toward the sides of the pan to get the crust up the edges of the tin a bit.

For the filling you’ll need:
3 cups of soaked cashews (3 cups measured before you soak them)
Half a cup of coconut cream and solids from the top of a full-fat can of coconut milk that’s been refrigerated (only use the very solid part)
Half a cup of raw honey
The juice of 6 lemons or limes, strained
2 ripe mangoes (one for the filling and another to top)
Half a teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Directions

Put it all in your blender and blend until super-creamy. If you’ve soaked your cashews overnight this won’t take you more than 30-40 seconds. Pour half the mix onto the crust, then chop the mango and layer it on top.  Pour on the rest of the filling, and then cover and freeze overnight.
To serve, pull it out of the freezer and allow it to defrost for about five minutes. You might need more time in less-insane summer temperatures so use your own judgement here, but in this heat it’ll thaw pretty quick. Once cut, pop this back in the fridge. Top with more sliced fruit and a sprinkling of cacao nibs and serve.

 Photography by Kartikeya Manan

Photography by Kartikeya Manan