Let's call them Lilybars*.

June 10, 2009 in Gluten Free, Healthy Fare, Vegan Recipes

I’ve eaten a lot of nutritional bars over the years. Call them power bars, energy bars, meal replacement bars, protein bars, diet bars, and what have you, I’ve tried dozens of dozens. In recent years, I started eschewing the more processed and chemically-laden varieties in favor of ones comprised of actual food. (What a concept, eh?) My favorite of them all has been the blissfully simple Lärabar. They’re delicious, and they’re also vegan, raw, gluten-free, kosher, and pretty much any other virtuous superlative you can think of.

Lärabars come in an impressive variety of flavors (Ginger Snap, Pistachio, Apple Pie, Key Lime, and Cashew Cookie, just to name a few), but what’s even more impressive is the simplicity and purity of ingredients. The latter of the above has exactly TWO INGREDIENTS: dates and cashews. That’s it! The others don’t have too many more ingredients; I’d wager an average of 3, maybe 4, Cocoa Mole having the most due to the inclusion of spices.

Given the minimal ingredient list, being me, I decided to try making them at home. Here are the three I concocted:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH

1 cup pitted and roughly chopped whole dates (I used organic Medjool)
3/4 cup raw cashews*
2 tablespoons cacao nibs (you could also use regular chocolate chips)
dash of cinnamon (optional)

Put a sheet of plastic wrap in an 8 inch loaf pan, enough to hang over each side, lengthwise.

Place the dates in a food processor. Pulse until processed to a paste; the dates will start to form a ball. Transfer paste to a medium bowl (no need to clean the processor).

Add the cashews to the processor and pulse until finely chopped. You definitely want this fine, but you don’t want to go too far and make cashew butter. Add the nuts to the bowl with the date paste, add cacao nibs or chocolate chips. Use your fingers to knead the nuts into the paste.

Once well-combined, roll into a log (it doesn’t need to be too fussy) and transfer into the plastic-lined 8 inch loaf pan. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan . . .

and then lift it out – voila, perfect rectangle!

Divide into 8 bars – I used a bench scraper for this, like so:

Close up the rest of the plastic around any leftover bars and refrigerate. Note: these do need to be kept refrigerated, unlike Lärabars themselves, which uses an opaque wrapper specially designed to keep light and oxygen out.

The other varieties I made:

BLUEBERRY APRICOT ALMOND

1 cup pitted and roughly chopped whole dates
1/4 cup dried apricots
1 cup raw almonds*
1/4 cup dried blueberries

CRANBERRY (or GOJI BERRY) PECAN

1 cup pitted and roughly chopped whole dates
1/3 cup raw cashews*
1/3 cup raw pecans*
1/4 cup dried cranberries or goji berries (I used  goji berries)
1 or 2 teaspoons orange zest (optional)

Rather than typing the instructions for each over again – it’s basically the same process. Process dates and other moist fruits first, then nuts, then transfer to a bowl, add additional mix-ins, squish together, and press into bars.

I’m pleased with how they turned out – especially since my 14 month old also likes them. My favorite of the three is the Blueberry Almond Apricot one, but the others are tasty too. And I plan to experiment more with different varieties , maybe adding some flax and oats, maybe some spices – and so should you! It seems the key ratio is approximately 1 cup dates or a combination of dates and other moist dried fruits to 3/4 cup nuts of your choice, as a foundation, and then take it from there!

I’ll still be a Lärabar consumer, no doubt, but adding these into our healthy snack arsenal is definitely a boost to the budget – besides, they’re FUN to make. Enjoy!

*Lily is Anne’s 14 month old daughter/Donna’s 14 month old granddaughter.

** When using raw nuts, be sure to soak them first to get their full benefit. Here’s a great explanation, with instructions.

– posted by Anne

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