Dates and Five-Star Bars

Hah!  I can only guess what you are thinking as you read the title of this post, unless, like me, you have a sweet tooth devil over your right shoulder and a health food angel over your left, each whispering loudly in your ear as you consider dessert.  After trying lots of prepared cookies, bars, and other sweet treats, I started to experiment in my kitchen, seeking a sweet, satisfying treat that can be made ahead of time, keeps well in the refrigerator, only has a few ingredients, and costs much less than what we pay in any store.  Oh.  And is a healthful choice.  Just because Oreos  are vegan does not mean they are a healthful choice…once in a while is fine, but a daily dose, not so much.  Dates, though, are sweet and nutritionally packed, a fine choice for a daily dose.

These bars are versatile—you can switch out the secondary fruit, nuts, and spices to duplicate the flavors of almost any pie or cookie.  They are delicious—even the most skeptical eaters find themselves looking for seconds.  They are nutritious—featuring whole dried fruits, nuts and antioxidant-rich spices.  And, they are satisfying—cravings for candy disappear after the first bite.  They have so many good qualities that I have to give them a five-star rating!

Five-Star Bars

Ingredients:

For the base:

16 oz pitted dates

1/2 c walnuts

Add-in combinations:

Apple Pie:  1 c dried apple rings (pre-chopped a bit),  1/4 c raw or roasted almonds, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Cherry Pie:  1 c dried tart cherries, 1/4 c shelled, unsalted, roasted pistachios, 1 generous pinch ground cardamom

Cherry Chocolate Pie:  3/4 c dried tart cherries, 3/4 c vegan chocolate chips, 2 T cacao nibs

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie:  1 c raisins, 1/4 c unsalted roasted peanuts,  1 generous pinch cinnamon

Tropical Delight:  3/4 c dried tropical fruit, such as mango, papaya, and/or pineapple (try to get unsweetened), 1/4 c macadamia nuts, 1 generous pinch cardamom or cinnamon

Mixed Berry Pie:  1 c mixed dried berries, 1/4 c roasted almonds, pinch grated nutmeg

Peanut Butter Cup:  3/4 c vegan chocolate chips, 1/4 c salted, roasted peanuts

Shredded, unsweetened coconut (optional)

Method:

Put the dates in the bowl of a large food processor.  Process until dates are ground fine.  Add the walnuts and pulse to combine.  Pulse again until walnut pieces are about the size of split peas.

Choose your add-ins.  Add fruit and nuts to the date-walnut mixture.  Sprinkle with spice if using.  Pulse mixture until combined but still a bit chunky.  Or pulse a little longer for a finer consistency.  Be careful not to over-mix into a paste.  You want some texture in the bars.

Pour mixture onto a large cutting board.  Use your hands to knead the mixture for a couple of minutes until it holds together.  Roll mixture out into a log.  Use a sharp knife to cut into 20-24 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a bar shape.  Roll in shredded coconut if you like.

Place bars in a glass or other container, keeping bars from touching each other.  Use a piece of parchment paper between layers if necessary.  Refrigerate for an hour or until firm.  These bars can be individually wrapped in parchment or waxed paper for travel, and make a delicious treat in a school or work lunch box.

After you make these a few times, try experimenting with different fruit, nut, and spice combinations to find the ones that make you happiest.

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2 Comments on “Dates and Five-Star Bars”

  1. michelle Says:

    Dan packs date bars every time he goes for a hike or bike ride now. He used to buy those luna bars, thankfully I got him to see they weren’t a real food and were a waste of money. Love all the different ways you can change them up.


  2. […] Elizabeth Runs notes on intersections of running and life « Dates and Five-Star Bars […]


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