Snow days are a time to regroup and unwind. Imposed relaxation. What could be better? They give me time to focus on home and get into the kitchen. And today was no exception. This winter I’ve been snacking on combinations of raw ingredients—handfuls of raw nuts, seeds and dried fruit. And my go-to snack grab when I’m out is always a Lärabar. For me, they’re a perfect gluten-free choice to combat nasty blood sugar crashes. With the exception of dark chocolate in some of the bars, they’re made only from nuts and dried fruit, and have no added sugar. Raw, gluten-free and vegan: simplicity! I remember the first time I checked the ingredient list on my favourite cashew bar, astonished to find that there were only two ingredients: cashews and dates. And each time I’ve handed over $2 and change to a cashier, I’ve had the same thought— I can make these at home. I’ve got this!
So today, I got down to it and tossed together three bars: cashew, date and peanut; cranberry, lemon, pecan-almond; and dark chocolate, almond-cashew, coconut. Kieran’s pronouncement was that they were better than store-bought, and all I could do was nod and chew.
Dates are the fruit base for all three bars. Medjool are particularly lush, so use them if you can, but I used what I had on hand—the less expensive Deglet Noor—and they worked just fine. For 4 large or 6 smaller bars, the ratio is: 1 cup dates: 1 cup nuts: 1 cup optional filling (unsweetened coconut, dried cranberries, apricots, cherries, blueberries, etc.). When adding extra dried fruit, you may need to increase your nut mixture by 1/2 cup. I also found that adding 1 tablespoon of water helped to bind the ingredients in the food processor.
Play around with ingredient combinations, you really can’t go wrong. I added 1/8 teaspoon pure, organic lemon extract to my cranberry-pecan bars and they were incredibly fragrant. I love the concentrated hit of lemon without having to use zest/juice. Other suggestions include cinnamon, vanilla bean seeds, fresh ginger, pure mint extract.
I used a food processor to make these bars. You could probably use a Magic Bullet (I used mine to process some extra nuts to add to a batch in the food processor). And if you have a Vitamix, you could use that with the tamper. I found a food pro was easiest for scraping down the sides and removing the mixture without leaving much behind. Simply process chopped, pitted dates, nuts and any additional fruit until a sticky dough is formed. You want the nuts to be fine, but not so fine that they turn to butter. They need to have a bite! Add your flavouring of choice and pulse until combined. You may need to add up to 1 tablespoon of water to help bind ingredients. For extra yum factor (and nutrition) you could use coconut oil instead of water, or even better, coconut butter. The entire process takes no more than 5 minutes. Place the mixture between two sheets of parchment paper, flatten and shape into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut bars into 4-6 pieces, wrap with parchment and refrigerate for at least one hour. Wrapped individually or kept in a container, these bars should store well in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.
1 cup dates
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup raw peanuts
Cranberry Lemon Bliss:
1 cup dates
1 cup raw cashews (or roasted, unsalted)
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/8 teaspoon pure, lemon extract
Chocolate Coconut Chews:
1 cup dates
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup cocoa (not Dutch process)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (optional)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup chopped, dark chocolate pieces (and/or semi-sweet chocolate chips), added after processing.