Much like thousands of other people in the world, I love Larabars. I first sampled these delicious little treats about 3 years ago when I found some sample sized promotional bars in the candy jar at my father’s house after he returned from a holiday trip that involved some sort of race. One of the race promoters or someone else associated with the event had given the bars out in freebie bags, they made their way to the jar, and then made their way to my stomach.
Once hooked, I started to wonder what was in these lovely little bars of snacky goodness, and upon checking the label of a Lemon Bar on a whim I was struck with the thought “I can make these at home!” A quick glance at the ingredients of a at Lemon Bar showed a base recipe of:
Long list, huh? Armed with that information, it was time to move on to the extras, which turned up:
- Lemon juice from concentrate
- Natural lemon flavoring
Based on some of the recipes I have posted here in the past it could be hard to guess that I am a fan of quick, simple recipes with minimal time spent in the kitchen. I don’t mind spending hours on end slaving over a hot stove to get a recipe right if it is something that requires that kind of personal involvement, but given the choice between slaving or quickly getting back to goofing off, I’m going with the path of least resistance at least 75% of the time. Since these snack bars were so tasty and the recipe so short and simple, it was only logical that I take a shot at creating my own version of them, so off to the kitchen I went.
After several attempts using a wide variety of dates, I determined that whole, pitted dates were the perfect start for this recipe. Many of the pre-packaged dates I found were chopped with sugar added, had preservatives or other chemical gunk in them, or a combination of all those things, making them less than suitable for use in a healthy, natural recipe.
Luckily my local Whole Foods stocks whole dates in the bulk foods section of the store, so they have become my go-to source for the base ingredient (date paste from a Middle Eastern market is also great, but a little more difficult to locate for most people).
As for the flavor ingredients, that is purely a matter of taste – these bars can be made with just about any ingredient you can think of – nuts, spices, dried fruits, oatmeal, fruit flavors – just about anything.
Date and Nut Bars
- 2 cups pitted whole dates or date paste
- 1/2 cup mixed nuts (I used a mix of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios)
- 1/4 cup dried fruit (I used a mix of dried cherries and cranberries)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Step 1: Place the nuts, dried fruit, and cinnamon into a food processor and pulse until the nuts are chopped into small pieces. Remove from the processor and set aside. (You could also use a nut grinder for this step and mix the chopped nuts with the fruit and cinnamon after grinding)
Step 2: Add the 2 cups of dates to the bowl of the food processor and process until the dates form a large ball in the bowl. Remove the date ball and any remaining pieces in the bowl.
Step 3: Add the processed dates and nut/fruit mix to a medium sized bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until all the nuts and fruit are completely incorporated into the date mixture.
Step 4: Remove the mixture from the bowl and place it on a sheet of wax paper. Using you hands or a rolling pin, press the mixture into an even layer approximately 1 inch thick. Make an attempt at squaring off the edges, as this will help you cut the mound into evenly sized bars. (I skipped that part, but it is helpful)
Step 6: Remove the mixture from the fridge and cut into bars roughly 2 inches long.
Step 7: Wrap the individual bars in plastic wrap and store in the fridge until needed. The bars will keep for a week or two if wrapped well. They can also be frozen and thawed for use in a bag lunch or if you just happen to make too many.
Yield: 8 – 12 bars, depending on how thin you roll the mix.
As I mentioned before – this is an extremely flexible recipe, and the date base can be used to make just about any type of bar you can possible imagine. Let your mind run wild and experiment – that is half the fun of cooking (the other half is consuming the results, of course).
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