I just returned from a trip to Israel, where the market stands overflow with dried fruits and nuts. Just like dried fruit in America, you have to be careful to choose the purest varieties – many are crusted with so much sugar that they’ll leave your teeth aching. But once you find the good stuff, it’s hard not to eat it all in one sitting. On this trip, I got hooked on dried dates. A single date is sweet enough to close out a meal and leave me satisfied – meaning no ice cream or candy necessary.
With a touch of motivation to start the New Year on the right path, I’ve decided to cut out grains, dairy and many processed foods. Please note that these rules will not apply when presented with an irresistible restaurant menu – a girl has to draw the line somewhere! But for the meals I can control, and the snacks I keep at my desk, I want to be better about what goes into my body.
I used to bring tiny snack bags of raw almonds, cashews and dried cranberries to work to hold me over between meals. My cravings go in waves, so it was only a matter of time until those same three flavors grew tired on my taste buds. Having moved on from the sad snack bags of yesteryear, I decided to spice things up with my new-found love: dates! With a combination of cashews and seeds, these snack bars taste incredibly indulgent and, when eaten in moderation, are also very healthy.
Note: the dates were very tough on my blender/food processor. Give it a shot, but if they seem to be getting stuck, simply dice them to your best ability before blending. You’ll need to add warm water here and there (in tbsp’s) to get things going in the blender.
30 dates, pitted and diced (I used Deglet Noor from Whole Foods’ bulk section, but use Medjool if you can find)
1.5 cups of cashews (I used roasted salted because they were out of raw – but raw is better)
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds
1/3 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of chia seeds
If using a strong food processor, simply combine all of the ingredients and pulse, adding a tablespoon of warm water here and there to loosen things up. You want to build the mixture into a clay-like consistency and may need to scrape the sides as you go.
If you’re blender is struggling – as mine did – make sure that your dates are diced finely and add them into the blender alone with a 2 tbsp of hot water. Blend as much as possible, then dump in the cashews. Continue blending, scraping the sides and un-sticking the dates as needed. Add in the raisins, chia seeds and sunflower seeds and continue blending with another tbsp of hot water.
Even if things aren’t blending perfectly, you should be able to get everything mashed together eventually. You can further mix everything together using your hands in a large bowl.
Dump the mixture onto a big piece of wax paper, then use a rolling pin lightly coated in oil, or the sides of the wax paper folded up, to evenly flatten the ‘dough’ to about a 2 inch thickness.
Place in the refrigerator or freezer for a few hours, then remove and slice evenly. Because not all of my dates were blended thoroughly, my cutting wasn’t perfect. I sliced into small squares as opposed to large bars.
Store in the fridge on squares of wax paper to prevent sticking.