It seems there’s a whole lotta controversy flying around Facebook these days, huh? Well maybe just for us US people with an election right around the corner. Let me just get it out there that I fully plan on keeping my potentially controversial views – both political and otherwise – off my blog and Facebook page. It just doesn’t matter when it comes to food, right?!

Now that I’ve gotten that out, I feel safe launching into a conversation about hemp seeds. Because if you don’t know about hemp seeds, let me just say: it’s not what you think!

Sure, hemp seeds are related to the controversial plant commonly known as marijuana. But in general, “hemp” refers to the family of low-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant. (Source)

What are hemp seeds used for, it not to grow the green smoke-able stuff? Tons! For hundreds of years, hemp has been cultivated to make textiles, rope, paper and fuel. And of course, for nutritional value. Right now, hemp seeds are quickly becoming m more and more common in the average grocery store. (Source)

The hemp seed – about the size of a sesame seed and a bit softer – contains ample amounts of essential fatty acids and protein. Hemp seeds are easily grown without pesticides, non-GMO and are vegetarian and vegan, making them a smart source of nutrition. As far as protein goes, hemp seeds are stacked with all 10 essential amino acids. Additionally, they provide folic acid, important B vitamins, and minerals essential to metabolism and bone function. (Source)

This household has seen regular consumption of hemp seeds for the past year or so. Do you remember my Strawberry Avocado Smoothie? It’s what Ben eats for breakfast, almost every single day! That’s right, Real Men Eat Hemp Seeds. They also make a nice addition to salad or yogurt. It’s amazing the extra satisfaction you get from a little good fat and protein! We always buy Manitoba Harvest hemp seeds in bulk from our regular grocery store. So when they offered me a package for review, that was a no-brainer. It’s always easy to share my opinion on something I already know and love!

In honor of the occasion, I first decided to whip up a batch of my friend Ricki’s Happy Hemp Two-Bite Brownies. These little nutrient-filled fudgies are seriously satisfying! (And vegan and gluten-free too.)

Then, I decided it was time to share another homemade protein bar recipe. Back when I made my Mint Chocolate Brownie Protein Bars (with hemp seeds, naturally) I had this vision in my head that I was going to keep coming up with homemade, gluten-free and vegan protein-rich snack bars that I would share in an e-book. The recipes happened, but the e-book still hasn’t. (Anyone have a dummy’s guide to creating an e-book? I’d love a copy!) So in the meantime, here is my recipe for Gingerbread Cookie Protein Bars. I think you’ll love their satisfying, chewy bite, and how much fuel they provide – with their balance of good fats and quality protein, they make a perfect pre-workout snack.

Want more ways to justify that bag of hemp seeds? Here are some interesting recipes I found!

Hemp Seed Pesto at Choosing Raw

Apple Hemp Seed Pudding from Incredible Smoothies

Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Hemp Seeds, Flax and Chia from Oh She Glows

Hemp & Chia Oatmeal Cookies from Art and The Kitchen

Hemp Crusted Tofu Lettuce Wraps from Food and Wine

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Gingerbread Cookie Dough Protein Bars

Yield: 16

A gluten-free, vegan, all-natural no-bake energy chock full of healthy fats and high quality protein - with the taste of soft gingerbread cookie dough.

Ingredients:

heaping half cup (70gm) raw almonds
heaping half cup (70gm) raw walnuts
3/4 cup (125gm) prunes
3/4 cup (125gm) dates
heaping half cup (90gm) Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 3/4 cup (175) naturally-sweetened vegan vanilla protein powder (I order a rice/pea blend from True Nutrition)
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons molasses

Directions:

Place the almonds and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until a soft butter begins to form, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the prunes, dates, and hemp seeds and continue processing until the mixture forms a soft paste. Add water and process to combine.

Add the ginger, cinnamon and protein powder, and process again for one minute. Finally add coconut oil and molasses and process to combine. The mixture may appear crumbly but will hold together when pinched.

Line an 8x8" baking dish with aluminum foil and spread the mixture evenly into the pan, flattening with a spatula.

Refrigerate for several hours, then slice into 16 squares. These are best kept individually wrapped in the refrigerator or freezer, but will be good for several hours at room temperature if you choose to take them on the go.

Nutrition Facts:

Calories 191.8
Total Fat 9.8 g
Saturated Fat 2.3 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4.5 g
Monounsaturated Fat 2.2 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Sodium 57.8 mg
Potassium 198.4 mg
Total Carbohydrate 15.6 g
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g
Sugars 9.6 g
Protein 12.7 g

Cara Lyons, www.carascravings.com

Disclaimer: Manitoba Harvest provided their product for my review, however, I was already happily buying it on my own and all opinions expressed are mine.

This post is linked to Wellness Weekends at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, Healthy Vegan Fridays at The Veggie Nook, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.