Rob and I have major sweet tooths. I don’t know what it is, but after eating something savoury, we immediately start craving something sweet. Even if we are full.
We both grew up being told that once we have eaten all our dinner, we can have our pudding. (So basically, even if we are stuffed, we will still force a pudding down!) Sugary sweet things will always be a treat to me. And a necessary. Blame it on the parents, eh!
Over the last few years, my baking habits have changed. I no longer bake sugar laden cakes every week. Back in the heady days when I first discovered my love of baking, I was eating a slice of homemade cake nearly everyday. No wonder I went up a dress size!
I had to admit that all the sugar, butter and buttercream (which is again is just sugar and butter) in and on the cakes was not doing me any favours. And my lack of exercise, but thats another story.
Slowly, but surely, I cut down on making cakes. It breaks my heart that I don’t get to practice my main hobby and use my Kitchenmaid mixer as much as I would like too. But Spinderella will last me a lifetime, and I would like a long lifetime in which to use her.
I still really want sugar though! I want something sweet ALL THE TIME!!!! I am addicted!
At first, instead of cakes, I baked flapjacks and snack bars. I absolutely adore flapjacks and they are one of my favourite foods. But they still contain lots of sugar and butter. So the hunt for healthier alternatives was on.
Recently I have been pinning away recipes like a mad thing, check out my board full of healthy snack bars! Thank you internet for providing me with plenty of recipes based around oats, using natural sweetners like maple syrup, honey, dates or bananas instead of sugar, and coconut oil or peanut butter as a fat!
Here are two of my recent favourites that I want to share. For both of these recipes you need a food processor. Sure, it would be nice to have a Magimix or a Kitchenmaid model, but there is no way on earth I would pay £200+ for something that does the same job as my little old £30 job from Phillips. It might not win any awards for design, nor can it manage to grind oats into a fine flour as required in some of the recipes that I have tried (dammit!). But it can cobble together some houmous, veggie burgers and manage to smoosch up a few dates and thats all I use it for! If you don’t have a food processor you might be able to manage making these with a steady hand and a hand blender. Let me know if you can, as I am always looking for ways to reduce my washing up!
The first is this recipe from The Minimalist Baker. Its so moreish and easy to make. Its a bit of a bugger to spread out in the tin to set, but it works well with both Medjool dates and the cheaper Deglet Nour ones. I know as I have tried out both. Its a perfect treat for the 3pm afternoon energy slump and will keep you going until dinner time thanks to its slow burning carbs and all that other good stuff. Try them, you won’t regret it!
The next recipe is more of a formula than a recipe. I found it here on The Kitchn. I used 1 cup of Medjool dates, 1 cup 50/50 of raisins and cranberries and 1 cup 75/25 of almonds and sunflower seeds. Plus about a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder. Because we all know that added chocolate makes things better.
I mixed my fruits, nuts and seeds purely to keep costs down. Dried fruit and nuts are not cheap, but I am a savvy shopper and I usually get mine from Lidl, Aldi and Grape Tree rather than your traditional health shops. Plus I am sad because I always request my giant tubs of Manuka honey, coconut oil and natural peanut butter for birthday and Xmas presents. Edible bulk buy presents FTW!
Now on to the dates. I was never a fan of dried dates before. They always made an appearance at Xmas time when I was a kid, in those funny oblong containers with their strange plastic stick things to eat them with, and were hard and horrible. But once I tried Medjool dates I was a fan! How can something that is grown on a tree taste so rich, sweet, indulgent and vanilla-ery? I can see why they were called the fruit of the Kings!
Yes, Medjool dates are more expensive, but they are worth it. I have shopped around and the cheapest that I have found is in Sainsburys at £2.15 for 200g. They are in the fridge next to the fruit BTW, in case you head over to the dried fruit baking section like I did. Buy the organic dates and feel smug while you eat your homemade chocolaty energy bars that taste just like expensive Nakd and Trex bars etc!
Going back to all the recipes that I have pinned on Pinterest. To be honest, I don’t think I am going to bother making any of the other date based energy bars, as they are more or less the same recipe again and again, and this recipe/formula is pretty much perfect for me. The fruits, seeds and nuts I have used are all my favourites and they blend together perfectly for just the right level of virtuous sweetness, with a subtle hint of chocolate. Yum.