Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chocolate Coconut Date Bars


I have been dreaming of sweets recently. All kinds. Tarts, pies, four layer cakes, cupcakes, fudge... I could go on! I want some sort of decadent (mainly chocolate) treat every night and I seriously can't quit! I find myself not purusing through blogs, books and magazines for all recipes as I normally would...but recently I've headed straight for the sweets! I don't even try to hide it. I'm on a mission to find myself the next exciting recipe that satisfies my sweet tooth. Well, temporarily at least. I even look at breakfast foods to find a new sweet treat I can pass for breakfast. yikes. 


But, you know. I'm gonna let it slide. It won't last forever and maybe my body is telling me something. (right??) Maybe. Doubtful. I WISH. 

                   "Body, please tell me you need sweets on a regular basis. That it helps you function 
                     properly and work more efficiently. Please! Pretty please!" 

This is how I talk to my body. Requesting that it need sweets more than any other food group... oh my. 

Well, fortunately for me there are plenty of sweet recipes that are still wholesome! Fun to make, taste great and are fantastic for me. wooo hooo! I love it. 

These Chocolate Coconut Date Bars fall perfectly into that category. They are raw & vegan, oh so easy, and deeeelish. I've got a baby shower full of women to prove it. The secret ingredient (in my opinion) is cashews. 


Yeah, that's right. Cashews help create a creamy base instead of marshmallow fluff, sweetened condensed milk, or any other kind of artificial and/or processed ingredient. (Although, I must admit -- I do love marshmallows. And as much as I would love to say I only eat homemade marshmallows with as natural as possible ingredients... if I were in a pinch you KNOW I'd be using some fluff to make myself a S'more. You know you would too. Or else you're a crazy person who doesn't appreciate S'mores the proper amount. Crazy.)

As I was saying, these cashews create a great creamy base for the bars. The cashews were actually soaked before making the nut base. This helps to create a smoother, creamier base. But it also provides a fascinating health benefit! Nuts naturally contain an enzyme that prohibits growth and keeps the nuts from sprouting. When we eat nuts raw, we ingest this enzyme and it can be harmful to our digestion and prevent our own bodies from absorbing important nutrients! When you soak nuts, it releases this enzyme and also stimulates the process of germination. (Check out MyNewRoots or FoodMatters to read more about it!) 

But you know, there's another secret (not so secret) ingredient: Dates. Dates have become one of the most fabulous fruits to use when it comes to baking. They are incredibly sweet and sticky and are a fantastic binder, sweetener and filler. They bring all the ingredients together and also provide plenty of substance for whatever dish you are creating. Those bad boys are loaded with fiber. 

Maple Syrup. Another fantastic ingredient in this recipe. Syrup has a bad reputation and I think I need to clear the air. 100% Maple Syrup is completely different than your Aunt Jemima syrup. No offense Auntie J, but your syrup is a phony. Let's talk about this please! Maple Syrup COMES FROM A TREE. Aunt Jemima comes from a processing plant that takes corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cellulose gum (and lots of other ingredients that I'm afraid to know about), pours it in a familiar bottle and calls it syrup. Basically you're pouring corn syrup all over your pancakes. Yuck! Think about that.

Processed syrups provide no nutritional value, sky rocket your blood sugar and continue to destroy your body (like all other processed food). 

100% Pure Maple Syrup on the other hand, provides lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Manganese and Zinc are two example nutrients found in Maple Syrup that protect both the heart and immune system. You can read more about that here! (Side note: the history of maple syrup is fascinating!).

So, need I continue on how many great ingredients are in this recipe? Or shall I just jump to the recipe?

That's what I thought. 

Chocolate Coconut Date Bars
Adapted Slighty from Gourmande in the kitchen

Ingredients for the base:
2 cups raw organic cashews 
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut 
10 large medjool dates (pitted) 
1 cup raw organic cacao powder (regular cocoa powder will work fine) 
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup 
pinch of sea salt (I used course grain sea salt) 

Ingredients for ganache: 
1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
1/4 cup organic coconut oil 
1/2 cup cocao powder (again cocoa is fine) 
sea salt
cocao nibs for topping (toasted coconut flakes, chocolate shavings or even flaked sea salt would be great here too)

  1. Soak cashews in water for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Line a 8x8 baking pan with parchment or wax paper.
  3. Blend coconut until fine powder in food processor 
  4. Add cashews and blend until mixture forms (be sure not to blend into cashew butter) 
    1. Chunk and throw in medjool dates
    2. Add in cocao powder
    3. Finally add maple syrup and sea salt; blend until smooth.
  5. Pour all ingredients into pan and chill while making the ganache.
Ganache directions: 
  1. Blend coconut oil and maple syrup in food processor. 
  2. Add in cocao powder and sea salt; blend until fully incorporated
  3. Pour ganache on top of bar layer and spread evenly. 
  4. Sprinkle with cocao nibs, toasted coconut flakes, shaved chocolate or flaked sea salt. 
  5. Chill for at least an hour.

Serve room temperature or cold.