I tried the viral Chocolate Quinoa Crunch Bar — and it is polka-dotted perfection – Yahoo News

Samantha Perpignand’s favorite childhood treat was a Nestlé Crunch bar. She hasn’t had one in several years, she says, but after seeing one in the store recently, she started wondering whether she could make something that hit the right notes with a healthier melody. Almost 266,000 TikTok views and over 1,500 Pinterest likes later, we caught up with her to talk about her crunchy, polka-dotty, viral recipe.

Perpignand got her start with vegan cookie catering in the Los Angeles area. Her business has grown to include a food blog, Instagram and TikTok with a highly respectable 1.4 billion views (yes, that is a billion with a “b”). She’s an animal lover with an interest in health and sustainability, and in those early days before plant-based was the new black, and vegan substitutes were everywhere, she loved bringing indulgent homemade vegan recipes to the public to encourage others to give them a try. There’s a cookbook now, too, called “Cookie Person,” with some of her most popular commercial bakery-style recipes.

Although Perpignand says her first love is baked goods, the pandemic stoked a bigger viewer interest in recipes for home-cooked daily dinners. Her most-viewed TikTok, Cauliflower Chickpea Wraps, clocks in with 2.8 million views. “I think it goes to show how popular simplicity is,” she said, “It’s all ingredients that you can find in a grocery store for a reasonable price, and it looks really tasty. The average person comes home from work and they want something they can put together in 30 minutes.”

The next most popular one, though, is her new recipe for Chocolate Quinoa Crunch Bars, and heaven knows we all need a little comfort food, too. The extra-mile efforts to sneak some healthy stuff in with the fun is really playing my song. At first glance, the recipe looks quick and easy, but maybe you’ve been burned by food blog recipes before — they’re often finicky to make, and to put it charitably, not delicious. Is this one worth trying?

It’s crunch time!

These only have 3 ingredients: chocolate chips, quinoa and coconut oil.

Salt n Sprinkles' Quinoa Crunch Bars contain only chocolate, quinoa and coconut oil. (Heather Martin)

Salt n Sprinkles’ Quinoa Crunch Bars contain only chocolate, quinoa and coconut oil. (Heather Martin)

All you have to do is toast the quinoa, melt the chips, mix, chill and slice.

Don’t be intimidated by the quinoa-toasting process. Just put them in any hot skillet and stir continuously until they’re toasted and popping. It only takes a couple of minutes. If your skillet is heavy, pour them into a bowl as soon as they’re ready, because they’ll get too brown if you leave them in the hot pan.

Toasting the quinoa only takes a few minutes, and it’ll tell you when it’s ready. (Heather Martin)

Toasting the quinoa only takes a few minutes, and it’ll tell you when it’s ready. (Heather Martin)

When the quinoa is done, pop the chips and coconut oil in the microwave and heat in very short intervals, just 15 seconds or so, until the chips start to melt. Don’t over-heat them — chocolate will lose its luscious crystalline structure if it gets too hot. You want the residual heat in the hotter ones to finish warming their less-melted siblings. Perpignand’s recipe uses Lily’s Dark Chocolate Chips, but I had Guittard Semisweet in the house, so that’s what I’ve used here. Any chip should work, even peanut butter, white chocolate or butterscotch.

Stop heating the chips when they start to melt, and stir until smooth. (Heather Martin)

Stop heating the chips when they start to melt, and stir until smooth. (Heather Martin)

Now, add the quinoa, and pour it into a loaf pan lined with parchment or plastic wrap. Then chill it in the fridge or freezer.

Stir in the quinoa before pouring into the pan and chilling. (Heather Martin)

Stir in the quinoa before pouring into the pan and chilling. (Heather Martin)

The Salt n Sprinkles version is cut into five bars. They look almost like they’ve been painstakingly coated in white sprinkles, but it’s just the natural quinoa showing through. Something about those little polka dots just makes my heart sing!

The resulting Quinoa Crunch loaf, prior to slicing. (Heather Martin)

The resulting Quinoa Crunch loaf, prior to slicing. (Heather Martin)

Let me tell you: These things are yummy. Lily’s helped me out with the math for its stats, letting me know that 1 cup of its dark chips weighs 180 grams. That means that if If you use Lily’s chips, each one will have about 300 calories and weigh in at roughly 2 ounces. Although the carbs for each bar will total about 40 grams, the sweetness in Lily’s brand comes from sugar alcohols, which have less of an effect on blood sugar, and the added chicory fiber can lessen the effect as well. I ended up cutting mine into 15 little squares to try to keep my intake reasonable and still ate three while I was taking photos. Since I used Guittard chips, the calorie count for a smaller square is about 100, with 15 grams of carbs. A full-sized Nestle-made 1.55-ounce Crunch Bar has 220 calories and 29 grams of carbohydrates, so you could have a couple of the smaller quinoa squares and still come out ahead nutritionally, with a few extra grams of protein and fiber to boot.

Quinoa Crunch Bars come ready made with high fashion but effortless polka dots. (Heather Martin)

Quinoa Crunch Bars come ready made with high fashion but effortless polka dots. (Heather Martin)

One safety note: depending on the chips you use, the bars may be pretty hard right out of the fridge, and cutting them when they’re rock-solid could set you up for injury. They’ll end up fudge-like if you let them sit out for too long, but warming at room temperature for 10 minutes or so is a good idea for safe slicing. Perpignand suggests storing in the freezer after cutting; even if you temper your chocolate really carefully, it will be prone to melting in your fingers when you eat it.

You could also make this recipe chocolate bark-style by just pouring onto a silicone mat or sheet of parchment, spreading thinly and breaking into pieces after chilling. No quinoa? Hemp hearts, chopped pumpkin seeds or crushed peanuts would work well, too. (Toasted quinoa is a whole grain that doesn’t disintegrate like puffed rice, so if you find it’s too grainy for you, you might prefer one of those seed options just on texture grounds.) No coconut oil? Butter or vegan butter would work, and I also tried making some with 2 tablespoons of nut butter instead. One of the bars pictured above is SunButter-flavored, but it looks almost exactly the same, just had a little bit of an extra nutty bite.

So why is a dietitian reviewing a candy bar recipe? I’ll let Perpignand sum it up: “I don’t think food has to be labeled healthy or unhealthy, but people get intimidated by making a big switch. It’s easier to make one small switch to something you already love to eat. Baby steps really help.”

Crunchy bits really help, too.

Get Perpignand’s Quinoa Crunch Bar recipe here.

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