DIY Energy Bars

Matisse & Jacks is a small San Francisco company that makes boxed mixes for bake-at-home energy bars, competing against the likes of Clif and PowerBar in a market saturated with energy-food solutions.

So why would anyone want to spend the time baking an energy bar?

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For me, the answer is embodied in one word: Taste. In my tests, the company’s (www.matisseandjacks.com) two current flavors — Cranberry Walnut Discovery and Chocolate Chip Amazon — were exceptionally yummy, beating out almost every energy bar I’ve ever tried, and embodying a fresh-baked flavor that strikes as a cross between a good scone and a granola bar.

Plus, Matisse & Jacks’ TrailBlaze Bake-at-Home Oatmeal Energy Bars (that’s the full name!) are easy to make and economical, too. At $5.89 per box, the mixes make nine bars each, which equals to just 65 cents per bar, a bargain compared to the industry-standard of about $2 per bar.

Preparation is as easy as stirring in applesauce and yogurt then baking the mix in a brownie pan.

Nutritionally, Matisse & Jacks bars have all the right statistics, including about 180 calories per bar with 4.5 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, and 23 grams of carbohydrates. For comparison, an Oatmeal Raisin Walnut Clif Bar contains 240 calories, 5 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and 18 grams of carbs.

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Matisse & Jacks bars have about half the sugar of a Clif Bar, at 11 grams, versus 20 grams in Clif’s Oatmeal Raisin Walnut flavor.

Other healthy attributes Matisse & Jacks touts include the organic whole-grain rolled oats used in all mixes; omega-3 fat at up to 650 milligrams per bar; and a commitment to no refined flours, no preservatives, and no hydrogenated or fractionated oils in its products.

The hassle factor is high with these bars, as baking, cooling, cutting, and packaging are required before taking the bars outdoors and on an adventure. Plus, they do not have the shelf-life — or, perhaps, “backpack-life” — that competing pre-wrapped (and preservative-enriched) energy bars embody. A Matisse & Jacks bar is not something you keep in an emergency kit, or stowed away with your camping equipment.

Instead, these bars are made to be baked, and then eaten fairly quickly. They do fine sitting out or refrigerated for several days. But to me that’s missing the point: These are freshly-baked delectables, made to eat warm and right out of the oven, or very soon thereafter.

(Stephen Regenold writes The Gear Junkie column for eight U.S. newspapers; see http://www.THEGEARJUNKIE.com for video gear reviews, a daily blog, and an archive of Regenold’s work.)

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