I had a few different ideas to blog about today. First was a blog about my weekend excitement, a beautiful weather Friday-Saturday, spending Easter Sunday with my family, baking a delicious something for said family. But instead, I decided to blog about a recent request. Multiple requests actually. The recent one from my father who doesn't believe that this recipe could possibly be on the healthier side of desserts and treats.
They are famous around these parts.
People worship me for them.
They pass out after eating them because they are so amazing.
That or the fact that I lace them with somethin' good.
I kid, I kid!
I first made these around Christmas time this year. I normally spend countless hours and calories baking frosted sugar cookies for my friends, but this year I decided to go a healthier rout. I wanted to send something special to my friend Jennifer down in Salt Lake. She was the one who got me hooked on the Paleo Diet, so I wanted to send something to her that was sweet and festive, but also totally Paleo. I also wanted to send something to my brother, who is vegan.
So my search began to find the perfect Christmas treat! I originally got the idea for fruit nut bars while reading a Martha Stewart holiday cookie recipe magazine. In it there was a recipe for vegan fruit nut bars, but I got a headache just reading the ingredients list.
(First of all, anyone who reads Martha Stewart's magazine, watches her show, or checked out the website knows that her recipes are ridiculous. They have a million ingredients and usually about half of those ingredients are things that can't be found at your average grocery store. You have to go forage for them yourself. And you people know me, I'm lazy. I don't want to spend my precious time hunting for ingredients when I could be snuggling with my kitties watching The Addams Family on HBO.)
So I took to the internet to find an alternative. And I found quite a few.
In the end I had to alter a few recipes, take from one and add to another, in order to come up with the perfect mixture. And from my many fans, it turned out pretty dang good.
Now I tossed and turned over the idea of sharing this recipe with you. It's been my little secret for a while now and I kind of like that control . . . "you want fruit nut bars? Well you're not getting 'em until I say so!"
Oh I'm mean. . . darn.
But as I packed little copies of my recipe in with my Christmas care packages, I realized that it will just give me more motivation to come up with something even better for next year. And hope that there are some other lazy people out there that will still beg me to bake for them! One of my favorite hobbies :o)
So here it is ladies and gentlemen!
I give you . . .
Delicious Paleo/Vegan/Raw Food Diet/Whatever . . .
Fruit Nut Bars
1 Cup Slivered Almonds
1 Cup Pecans
1/2 Cup Almond Flour (you can use any nut flour you like)
1/2 Cup Almond Butter
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar
2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup of Dried Fruit, chopped into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 Cup of Coconut (optional)
Notes and Alterations:
The latest batch (pictures were taken of) was made for my dad who has recently turned to a vegan diet, and absolutely no refined sugar. I shared some with him a while back and he loved them, and I was planning on making a batch for him much sooner, but I'm forgetful in my old age (ha) and kept forgetting to either pack them or make them at all. This was a last minute batch where I used what I had in my kitchen to work with.
First the nuts. I always use almonds but not always pecans. Pecans are definitely sweeter so they give these a more dessert-y taste. I have used walnuts instead, which is what I used this time because I didn't have any pecans on hand. The bars are still sweet, but the walnuts give it a bit more of a saltier taste.
Like I said, as far as the flour, I like to use Almond Flour or Hazelnut Flour (which I used this time) but I'm sure any nut flour you like can be used. It's all to your taste!
Almond butter is my favorite for this, but you could use peanut butter if you so choose. I recommend using something simple without a lot of added sugar. Also, sometimes I used creamy, sometimes I use crunchy. Both work great, but again, it all just depends on how you want the bars to turn out.
I didn't have any vanilla on hand so I didn't add that either.
As for the fruit, any dried fruit works well. For this recipe I used cranberries, grapes and apricots. Use whatever you feel like!
Step 1: Toast the nuts.
Place the slivered almonds and pecans on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until they're golden brown. Stir them occasionally. Keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn.
I skipped this part because I was in a hurry. They still taste good.
Step 2: Toss the nuts into the food processor until they are coarse.
Again, this is something you can alter to your own preferences. Sometimes I have left a lot bigger chunks for added crunch.
Step 3: In a medium bowl, mix the nuts and the almond flour together.
Step 4: In a microwaveable bowl, warm the coconut oil and the almond butter for about 20 seconds in the microwave until liquid-y. Stir together well.
Step 5: Stir the agave nectar, vanilla and salt into the liquid mixture. (You can use light or dark agave nectar.)
Step 6: Add the liquid mixture to your dry mix. Combine well.
Step 7: Add your fruit to the mix.
You can add the coconut in at this time if you chose to use it. Or you could use the coconut to coat the top of the bars.
Step 8: Lay parchment paper down in an 8x8 inch baking pan. (I didn't have parchment paper so I used foil and added a little coconut oil to keep from sticking too bad. Dang . . . maybe I need to go to the store, I seem to be out of a lot of things!)
Pat the mixture into the prepared pan with your fingers, making sure it is all good and snug in there.
Step 9: Leave in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 1 hour.
And that's it! When ready to eat, take out of the fridge and cut it up into bite sized pieces (or whatever size you want!) It's good to keep them cold or else they have the chance of melting. They don't freeze to be hard as a rock if they are left in the freezer either.
When I sent these in the mail to my friends, I just left a note on the top telling them to put the bars in the freezer/fridge immediately, and as far as I know they stayed intact.
The consensus was that these turned out great. My dad tells me he doesn't believe they aren't totally awful for you, but there is no refined sugar in them! The agave nectar and the fruit make them taste so sugary. The nuts, though, give it a salty taste so it's the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
So there you have it. My secret is out. Let me know if you make these how they turn out for you. I hope that your family enjoys them as much as mine!