Monday, May 30, 2011

Fruit Bars recipe (Lara Bar knock-offs)

I plan to bake/cook with Bean every Monday.  We have made so many sugary treats recently that I decided we needed to get back to basics.  Bean loves desserts, but they don't need to be unhealthy - just something sweet that we have reserved as a dessert-y treat.  He has been known to eat dried cranberries for dessert.  (He calls it "zert.")  And his idea of a treat when we go grocery shopping is dried mango (the unsweetened, nothing-but-mango variety - if you've never had it, it is soooooo good!). 

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I got a couple Lara Bars to try thinking we'd make them ourselves if he liked them.  He did not like the chocolate one we got, but he wolfed down the banana bread variety!  So, of course, that's what I started with when we did attempt our own.

We made banana and almond bars, so I first dehydrated some banana slices (incidentally, those are really freaking tasty on their own and everyone has enjoyed them).

The ingredients:
1/2 cup dried dates
1/2 cup dried banana slices
2/3 cup raw almonds

To make the bars:
1) Lay out four pieces of plastic wrap (I did six, because I wanted smaller bars for Bean but this recipe would make four bars about the size of Lara Bars).

2) Process the dates and bananas until you have a smooth paste (a minute or two).  Set aside in a mixing bowl.

3) Without cleaning the bowl of the food processor, pulse the almonds until finely chopped.

4) Add the nuts to the fruit paste and mash it together with your hands* (you'd think this would be the best part for a 3-year-old, but he was done with the process after pushing the buttons on the food processor).

5) Divide the mixture between your pieces of plastic wrap.  Wrap, and squish the mixture into whatever shape you want!

You can store them in the fridge - everything is dehydrated, so they will last quite awhile....if you don't eat them immediately like we did!

These were a huge success.  Bean and I made six small bars after lunch and they were gone by dinner time (I ate three and Bean ate three!  I will have to make them again and experiment with different fruits and nuts!

I started out looking around online for basic proportions to try.  The two sites (here and here) that I referenced were in agreement, so the very basic recipe is this (to produce four bars):

1/2 c. dried dates
1/2 c. other dried fruit
2/3 c. nuts

Variations I have tried (I will update this as I go!):

Dark Chocolate-Cranberry (makes 4 bars):  Your "other" dried fruit will be cranberries.  After you've made your fruit paste and set it aside, add 1/4 cup dark chocolate to your food processor and pulse until it's very finely chopped - it's fine if some of it is melty.  Scrape what you can into the paste.  Then pulse 2/3 c. peanuts until it is very finely chopped and scrape the bowl really well (the peanuts will help the fruit paste and the melty chocolate unstick).  These taste like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - oddly, they end up tasting like raspberry jelly.  Realllllly good.

Apricots and Almonds:  Just use dried apricots as your "other" fruit and almonds as your nuts.  These are The Beast's favorite so far, which is no surprise.  I kept waiting for someone to point out that these bars all look like turds, and it finally happened with this flavor.  Bean opened one up and asked "is this poop?"  HA!  Even the real Lara Bars look somewhat poop-like.  They use pictures of the ingredients and the packaging in their marketing - the bars alone would be a definite turn-off!

*At this point, I realized I had added a full cup of nuts instead of 2/3 cup.  It just made for very nutty bars and it was a little difficult to incorporate all the nuts into the fruit mixture.  It wasn't bad, but it was a little too nutty for my taste.
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