01 March 2011

Better Bittman Bars

I'm a fan of Mark Bittman.  Brilliant chef, a great writer, and even an entertaining actor in his videos.

As part of a string of articles, he recently gave a recipe for a Almond-Apricot Granola Bars.  In the comments section, I wrote:

I took the time to type this recipe into my nutrition website, www.wagmu.com. It is recipe #13592 Bittman's Almond-Apricot Granola Bars. Wagmu indicates that the recipe costs about $1.68/serving, when divided into 8 servings. That's a modestly-priced granola bar.
However, if you add this to a food plan in Wagmu, and click the "Suggest" button, Wagmu tries to take it out. That implies that this recipe, however yummy, is quite expensive relative to the nutrition it provides.
In contrast, Wagmu will encourage consumption of plain oats ("Cereal, oats, regular and quick and instant, not fortified, dry") and milk. It's all the embellishments which make the oats both yummy and expensive!
Perhaps a less expensive (for the nutrition) recipe could be had by trading the almond butter for peanut butter, using sunflower seeds and a few walnuts instead of almonds, trading the apricots for raisins or dried currants, and reducing the honey. It probably won't taste as good!

Here's an update on this.  I developed another recipe, #13593 Peanut Butter Granola Bars, specifically to find a recipe that was both cheaper and more nutritious. Today's experiment with this was quite successful. Yum!  (He says to wait 90 minutes 'til they cool, but I couldn't wait that long for mine.)  And only $0.62 per 71.7 g serving, versus $1.68 per his 73 g serving.  A dollar a bar less!  Next, compare the nutrients.  The Peanut Butter Granola bars have more of almost every nutrient.  Far more nutrient bang for your buck.
Nutrient profile for Bittman's almond apricot bars ($1.68 each), compared to Raffensperger's peanut butter bars ($0.62 each).

Wagmu's powerful optimizing Suggest function will rip the Bittman bars right out.  But add the substitute, and you can make a complete day's plan:

#7522 Coffee with milk, 3 servings.
#13593 Peanut Butter Granola Bars, 2 servings.
#7526 Egg on toast with herbs, 2 servings.
Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt, 190 grams.
Peppers, sweet, green, raw, 100 grams.
Fish oil, cod liver 4.3 grams.
Milk, reduced fat, fluid, 2% milkfat, with added vitamin A and vitamin D, two 300 gram servings.
Apples, raw, with skin medium (3" dia), one.

Here's the nutrients for this food plan. I rounded the food quantities, so the potassium is a bit short, and energy a bit high.  But just about perfect!

You can force Bittman's bars into a diet, but it will be more expensive.

Update, 25 Sep 2014. Okay, this is embarrassing.  I guess I was hoping to drive people to Wagmu to see the recipe.  Unfortunately, I wanted the recipe myself, without going to Wagmu! LOL! Okay, so here's the recipe (but please still try Wagmu, it's amazing).

Better Bittman Bars, Wagmu Recipe
1/2 cup wheat germ, toasted, plain.
1/3 cup currants, dried
1/3 cup Molasses
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup, Oats 
1 tablespoon lecithin, 
2/3 cup, Peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sunflower seed kernels, dry roasted, without salt.

1. Put the peanut butter, molasses, salt, and lecithin in a small saucepan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until they melt together; whisk to combine.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Pour this into the mixture of peanut butter and molasses; stir well to combine.

3. Grease a 7- or 8-inch-square baking dish with a little oil. Spread the mixture evenly into the dish, pressing down gently. Refrigerate if you like, but it's good already.

This is written in response to http://bittman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/three-follow-up-thoughts-and-one-recipe/, by Mark Bittman (listed in Wagmu as Recipe #13592), to improve the nutrition *and* lower the cost.

You can substitute raisins for the currants. You can omit the lecithin. Be sure to use roasted sunflower seeds - roasted taste better than raw.

Bittman recommends using a lot of plastic wrap.  You could use wax paper instead.

With a glass of milk (esp. if fortified with vitamins A & D), this would be a good breakfast.

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