This is probably the most health-conscious recipe I’ve ever posted. It may be the most health-conscious recipe I’ve ever made. No butter? No added sugar? No white flour, chocolate, bacon, or glazed donuts? I know, I know. It shocked me, too.
I’ll allow a super healthy recipe on occasion though, especially cause these were a birthday gift for my dad. Today’s his big 5-8! Since his diagnosis, he’s basically gone vegan and gluten free, so I wasn’t about to make him a pile of caramel turtle brownies (mmm, those do sound good though…) and totally wreck his healthy diet! What kind of a daughter would I be?
It’s kinda tough trying to find healthy vegan and gluten free recipes for sweet treats, especially for ones that don’t call for any added sugar. Those types of recipes are not usually on my day-to-day radar, so I had to employ Google to search out something appropriate for my dad, something he’d be able to enjoy, but something that was still kinda special and interesting. These bars are perfect. Nothing but a handful of ingredients, all natural and healthy, packed with delicious fruit and nuts to provide sustained energy.
raw apricot + ginger nut bars
(yields 12 bars)
recipe adapted from deliciouslyella.com
3 cups (663 g) medjool dates, pitted
1 cup (115 g) roasted unsalted pecans
1 cup (140 g) whole raw almonds
5 Tbs (70 g) fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup (85 g) brown flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbs water
1 cup (192 g) dried turkish apricots (unsulphured), chopped small
*to go extra health-conscious, use organic ingredients when possible*
In a large bowl, combine the dates, pecans, almonds, grated ginger, flax seeds, cinnamon and water. Stir well and dump half the mixture into a food processor. I was using an 11-cup capacity food processor and I needed to process this in two batches because the darn mixture just wanted to stick to the sides of the bowl and not blend up. So, if you have a really large food processor, go ahead and process it all at once. Otherwise, do it in batches for the most even results.
Pulse the mixture to get it going, and then process until it’s relatively smooth and combined. You may find that you have to take off the lid and scrape down the sides to get everything good and chopped. Once each batch is well combined, scrape all of the fruit and nut mixture back into your mixing bowl and mix in the chopped dried apricots. A sturdy wooden spoon works well!
Grab yourself a 1/4 sheet pan or a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and spray with cooking spray. Lay down a piece of parchment paper, and then dump the fruit and nut mixture onto the parchment. Here’s where things get a bit messy! You’re gonna spread the mixture out in the pan to create an even layer to the edges and your hands will get very covered in the stuff. I found a pair of food service gloves to be indispensable here, so if you can get a pair, your job will be made a lot easier! If you don’t have any gloves, lay down some plastic wrap on the surface and press the bars out that way. It’s simple!
After the fruit and nut mix is spread into the pan, chuck it into the freezer for one hour to firm up slightly. Once an hour has gone by, take the pan and run a paring knife along the edges to loosen the mixture from the sides. Turn the pan upside down over a cutting board and bang the pan to loosen the bars so they fall out. Peel off the parchment and mark the bars into 12 rectangles, 3 across and 4 down, measuring 4 inches each on their long sides and 2 inches each on their short sides. Cut the bars with a sharp knife.
If you want to wrap the bars individually for easy storage and on-the-go snacking like I did, cut 12 6-inch squares of wax paper and wrap each bar in each square, kinda like you’re wrapping a present — a yummy, healthy present! Secure the ends with scotch tape and store in the fridge. If you don’t want to go the individually wrapped route, these should be just fine stored in an airtight container in layers with parchment or wax paper separating the bars. Keep in the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks, or freeze to store them longer.
Since these were a gift, I didn’t get to eat a finished bar but I did sneak tastes of the fruit and nut mixture during the process, and let me say, it’s better than I thought it would be! It’s awesome, actually. I haven’t been a big fan of dates to this point, but when they’re all blended with other good stuff, they’re great. I love how the dates add just the right amount of sweetness without going overboard. And hey, it’s all natural! Nature’s candy, as it were. The nuts add great texture, even if I did have a hard time getting the whole almonds to break down enough.
These bars are packed with all sorts of healthy things that you probably didn’t even realize! The nuts provide magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, antioxidants, and they lower bad cholesterol while raising good cholesterol. The dates and apricots pack fiber, vitamin A, iron, potassium, antioxidants and they’re anti-inflammatory, to boot! The flax seeds are also anti-inflammatory, and they bring lots of good omega-3 fatty acids. Cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory, and prevents spikes in blood sugar so you don’t wind up with that sugar high followed by the inevitable sugar crash. The ginger is all-around great for the digestive system, and prevents nausea.
Happy 58th, Dad! I love you! Here’s to many more wonderful birthdays. I hope these healthy bars will sustain you during your treatment and provide you with some good nutrients that will keep you full of energy.