the taste space

Chocolate Mint Brownie Hemp Protein Bars (and Hiking in the Colombian Jungle)

Posted in Desserts, Favourites by janet @ the taste space on August 1, 2012

Rob and I did a 5-day hike to La Ciudad Perdida while in Colombia.  You need a guide and we picked Magic Tours since they responded to our emails and assured me I would have vegan options on the trek. We started off with 4 other hikers, our guide, a cook and a porter (with 2 mules) for our 5-day 44-km hike.

We hiked through the Colombian jungle, with a well-delineated path, up and down many hills and through a river quite a few times! Gorgeous scenery with a great ruined city at the end. An unparalleled experience, to say the least.

I won’t lie. It was hard. We hiked in hot and humid weather, over 30C with at least 80% humidity. Shade from trees was a welcome treat after hiking in open sun. I also found the terrain difficult with many river crossings and steep hills. I wish I had had better ankle support on my hiking boots! By the fourth day, we reached The Lost City. There were 1200 steps to climb to reach the actual Ciudad Perdida with a further 800 steps within the ruined city, itself. Going up those stairs was not so bad; going down was worse! If you don’t like heights, this also won’t work well for you. :P

Before I left, I made a few energy snacks. This was one of them which was a great source of protein when all I had to eat was fried rice and avocado for dinner (only once).

I was drawn to this recipe immediately after Cara posted it. It reminded me of a souped up Raw Brownie with a heavenly base of walnuts, dates and cocoa. However, to make this a protein power star, there are hemp seeds and protein powder as well. I ended up increasing the mint extract and substituting agave for the brown rice syrup. Absolutely delicious straight from the mixer. I dehydrated them at 110F for 7-8 hours hoping to make them more portable. The sharp flavours diminished slightly but my snacks were now able to come with me to the jungle! Sadly, I didn’t wrap them individually so they kind of smooshed together towards the end of my trip. Still good, though.

I will admit that Rob and I overpacked for our hike, but I would still travel with my snacks again. I still need to share the winner of the energy snacks, so stay tuned. I had some bona fide Larabars as well, which also seemed to ooze some oily stuff under the heat of the jungle.  If you are planning for a similar trip, definitely consult your tour operator to see what they recommend you bring. While Magic Tours had an extensive list of stuff to bring (sunscreen, hat, water bottle, clothes, etc), this is what I also found useful:

Hiking socks (I had pairs from IceBreakers and SmartWool)- No blisters here, baby!

Foot talc powder- We didn’t bring any but if you are prone to sweaty feet or slipping into rivers, this is for you!

Sanitizer- We didn’t bring any, but considering the lack of soap and toilet paper, this would have been great to have to not get traveler’s diarrhea.

Compact camera- You do not want to bring a big D-SLR with you on this hike. We actually don’t have too many photos because we were more focused on hiking then taking photos.

After bite & antihistamines- We had deet (although only 30%), and were still bitten by bugs. Lots of bugs. This helped.

Ibuprofen- You may be sore. You may get a headache.

Travel pillow- On the hike, you sleep in hammocks and the occasional bunk bed. No pillows. I am VERY picky about my pillow. I often travel with my day-to-day feather pillow because I have a hard time sleeping without it. This pillow, albeit not exactly what I am used to, was a godsend, even outside the trek in other B&Bs.

Hiking poles- I love my collapsible hiking poles.

Non-cotton clothing- Want your clothes to dry? Make sure they are not cotton.

Water purification tablets- You want to make sure you are drinking potable water. These tabs add no taste to the water.

What else do you like to bring with you on long hikes?

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina, and to this week’s Raw Food Thursdays.

Chocolate Mint Brownie Hemp Protein Bars
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings

1 cup (114g) walnuts
2 cups (280g) dates (I used honey dates)
3/4 cup (90g) hemp seeds
1.75 tsp mint extract
1/2 tsp liquid vanilla stevia (20 drops)
1.5 cups unflavoured protein powder (I used Hemp Pro 70)
6 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon agave nectar, or your choice of sweetener

1. In a food processor fitted with its S-blade, process the walnuts for 2-3 minutes, until pastey and relatively smooth. Add the dates and hemp seeds, and process again until the mixture forms a thicker paste, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Once completely smooth, blend in the mint extract and stevia. Next, add the protein powder and cocoa powder and process until fully incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed. Finally, blend in the agave. The mixture should hold together when pressed.

2. On parchment paper or a Teflex sheet, press the mixture into a square or rectangle (mine was around 8×8″ but it depends how thick you would like your bars). Dehydrate at 130F for 1 hour, then decrease to 110F for a further 5 hours. Flip onto a mesh and continue to dehydrate for another 2-6 hours at 110F. Cut into bars. (If you don’t have a dehydrator, simply place the bars in the freezer to firm up.)

3. Store in the fridge or in the freezer.

Makes 16 bars.

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24 Responses

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  1. sprint2thetable said, on August 1, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    Hand sanitizer is a MUST for me on hikes. I’m a total germ-phobe. And those mini kleenax packets (to use for TP). :)

    Love these protein brownies!!! I can’t have all the dates on plan, but maybe on a cheat day! Have you ever run across anything that is lower in sugar that’s a good sub for dates in recipes?

    • janet @ the taste space said, on August 1, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      I have heard people suggest prunes, but I think they have the same amount of carbs.. Most dried fruits are so high in sugars… maybe unsweetened dried cranberries? Or try something like fresh apple if you want to bake or dehydrate it? Not sure if dried apple would work as well… Yuo are very creative in the kitchen so I can’t wait to see what you create…

      • sprint2thetable said, on August 1, 2012 at 6:48 PM

        Ohhhh… fresh apple sounds really good. I’ll note that to try. Thanks, Janet!!

  2. rszumlak said, on August 1, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    I’d like to say that we didn’t take too many photos not just because we were too busy hiking, but we were too busy simply trying to survive!!

    Also, I’ll never hike in the jungle again with a cotton t-shirt. It got so sweaty so fast and was so hard to get dry. Leaving it out in the air overnight was not sufficient. The ONLY way to dry it was to leave it in the SUN for many hours.

  3. Eileen said, on August 1, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Well, I’m definitely starting to want to take a wilderness vacation now. Maybe not in those temperatures, though–I’m more up for Boundary Waters-type canoeing in 65F weather. :) We always did the traditional gorp etc for hiking snacks, but these hemp bars sound like a much more nourishing alternative!

  4. Cara said, on August 1, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Glad you liked them! I was wondering about dehydrating – it seems like it would preserve them longer, right? Not that I have a dehydrator. Did it make them crumbly or help them hold together better?

    • janet @ the taste space said, on August 1, 2012 at 8:22 PM

      They definitely held better – not crumbly at all. Way more portable. I did find the flavours were a bit more muted, though.

  5. Ricki said, on August 1, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    So glad you made those bars! They’ve been a staple of mine since I first saw the recipe on Cara’s blog. And wow–what a trip! Glad the food–and you both–made it through. :)

  6. Amanda said, on August 1, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    wet wipes…they are multi-purpose

    • janet @ the taste space said, on August 2, 2012 at 5:30 AM

      Great idea, Amanda! I used to bring them with me on my long cycling rides! They remove bike grease really well. :)

  7. [...] Magic Tours provided all food and lodgings for the hike towards The Lost City, promising vegan eats for me, I came prepared. Just in case. Fresh fruits were a-plenty, [...]

  8. Joanne said, on August 2, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    I can’t believe you guys hiked for that long and on such crazy trails! I’m impressed. These bars do sound like the perfect fuel.

  9. [...] Herb/Spice: Saffron (Crocus sativus)******??Janet  The Taste Space  Toronto, CanadaChocolate Mint Brownie Hemp Protein Bars *****Haalo Cook almost anythingCaramel apple pudding  english and italian Terry  [...]

  10. Elizabeth said, on August 7, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    Wow, Well done on your hike! Especially when it was so hot. The energy bars sound great. They’re exactly the sort of thing to take on a long journey and sound WAY better than some commercially produced energy bars I took as emergency rations on a bicycle trip a few years ago. (The bars I took tasted AWFUL)

  11. [...] dog followed us for a few days while on our jungle trek in Colombia. Rob named him Danger [...]

  12. [...] pancake, it was typically made with cheese and stuffed with some sort of meat. While hiking to The Lost City, our chef extraordinare made some arepas sin queso (without cheese) for me one morning. They used a [...]

  13. [...] one. My kitchen changed completely once I finally grabbed hold of it, though. Homemade energy bars galore. Turned out I was the one laughing (until now), since this old processor was the best. It was a [...]

  14. [...] Chocolate Mint Protein Hemp Bars [...]

  15. Heather @Gluten-Free Cat said, on May 29, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Wow, I think I’d make room in my pack for a pound of these! Thanks for sharing them at Raw Foods Thursdays. Pinning them now!

  16. Angela (@eatspinrunrpt) said, on June 24, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Oooh yes! I have everything for these in my pantry/fridge right now – that rarely happens! They sound absolutely amazing. Now I know how I’ll be using lots of my hemp seed stash!

  17. realrawkitchen said, on September 24, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    I love this! I love raw brownies and I love that these served a purpose. My husband and I will be hiking in Costa Rica and Panama soon so I also love the write up on your trip. Thanks for sharing!!

  18. […] the vegan options, so I tried to cover myself with a protein-packed treat. I thought of making my chocolate mint protein bars again, but of course, I wanted to try something […]


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