I have a pretty major sweet tooth. My only hope is to throw away all sweets, which I do periodically. But that leaves me with an empty, hopeless feeling. Life is blah without sweets. Lately, I’ve been trying to stock up on some homemade “healthy” sweets so I don’t feel so guilty and I don’t get that sugar headache later in the day. My neighbor introduced me to Paleo last year and it has been such an eye opener. The paleo diet is based on the idea that we are healthier—both mentally and physically—when we mimic the nutrition of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. I already feed my family whole foods most of the time, but reading and learning about “clean eating” has made me realize that we still eat too much processed food. There are many foods on the “no” list in the paleo diet, the major ones being dairy, grains and added sugar. Although that last one is a challenge when baking, you are allowed to use natural sweeteners (like agave + maple syrup) in small doses. I say hallelujah to that!
I began my research where I always begin my research…Pinterest! I gathered about three or four recipes and started to experiment. Let me be absolutely clear, I am not a professional or certified anything when it comes to cooking. I’m not bad, I’m just fine. However, my children have these incredibly developed palettes whereby they can detect any hint of healthy. They can actually taste a ground up piece of flax seed, which is really very annoying. So my measuring stick of success was one, or all (as if), of my three kids eating these bars and liking them. Finally, after much trial and error, I present to you the final recipe:
Paleo Dream Bars
- 12 medjool pitted dates
- 3 tablespoons applesauce
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2 tblspns seeds (I used pepitas)
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup oats (ok, this is not paleo so don’t freak…will explain below)
- 1 tablespoon coconut crystals
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (or one packet)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 teaspooon salt
- chopped dark chocolate / about 33-50g which is 1/3 to 1/2 a bar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the dates in a small bowl and pour in some boiling water until the dates are just covered. Let the dates sit for 15 minutes. Next, melt the coconut oil in a pan over low heat. It won’t take long to melt so keep your eye on it and take it off the heat the minute it’s melted. Put aside to cool while preparing the dry ingredients.
Place the nuts, seed and oats into a cuisinart, grinding until it resembles more of a nut meal. My kids don’t like to detect any crunchy nuts, therefore I grind them pretty fine. (For me, I like to put the pecans in at the end so they are still chunky because I love the flavor, but you can do whatever suits you.) A note about the oats: Oats are a grain so they are not paleo, but since my objective with these treats is to eliminate sugar, I keep the oats. You can replace the 1/2 cup oats with 1/4 cup coconut flour, and then add in another 1/4 cut of nuts (you may need to use a smaller baking pan, too). Transfer the nut mixture to a medium bowl, adding the next four dry ingredients and stirring until combined.
After soaking the dates for 15 minutes, drain the water and then put them in the cuisinart with the applesauce. Pulse until the dates are well chopped (no big chunks). In a small bowl, add the cooled coconut oil, date mixture, maple syrup, vanilla and egg and stir until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the medium bowl of dry ingredients and stir. Now for the last ingredient which, in my mind, is the most important …chocolate! A word about chocolate and paleo: I have searched and read umpteen paleo cooking sites, and almost all of them use chocolate. However, it must be dark chocolate and about 75-85% cocao. I use Green & Black’s organic dark which is 85% cacao. Chop chocolate and stir into batter.
Pour batter into a greased 8 x 11 glass baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours until you cut and eat. These bars are definitely much better when they are room temperature (making them even more delicious the next day!).
I hope you try making these bars, they really are very yummy. Lots of ingredients but once you get the hang of it, it goes quickly. My husband loves them (he’s like a child so that’s a feat), and my daughter loves them so much that she brought one to school to share with her friend. No wonder she’s my favorite child!
Have a beautiful weekend!
Tip: You can find all of these ingredients at Whole Foods, and some at Trader Joe’s. But you can also order online at The Green PolkaDot Box, a “clean” non-GMO buying collective.