Lara BarsVery Cherry Bars (use as a template for almost any combination)
LARA BARS use a multi-layer package that keeps out UV light and oxygen, which, in turn, maintains freshness without the use of preservatives. I use plain old plastic wrap and my refrigerator, then pop one in my bag when I’m ready to go.
1/4 cup chopped dates (roughly chopped whole dates, not pre-chopped)
1/4 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
1/3 cup whole pecans, almonds or walnuts
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Set out two pieces of plastic wrap for shaping and wrapping the bars. Do this first; you’ll have sticky fingers when you need it.
Place the dates and cherries in a food processor. Pulse until processed to a paste (photo 1). Transfer paste to a medium bowl (don’t clean processor).
Add the nuts to the processor and pulse until finely chopped (photo 2). Add the nuts, along with the cinnamon, to the bowl with the fruit paste (photo 3). Use your fingers to knead the nuts into the paste (just keep squishing, it’s fun; brings back memories of play-dough; see photo 4).
Divide mixture in half. Place each half on each of one of the sheets of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic around each bar and start squishing into a bar shape form, 3 and 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 3/4-inch thick); press against countertop to flatten bottom side, flattening top side and ends with flat of hand (photo 5) Tightly wrap the plastic around each bar and store in the refrigerator. Makes 2 bars.
Nutrition per Serving (1 bar): Calories 207; Fat 9.4 g (sat .8g, mono 5.2g, poly 3.1g); Protein 3.9g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 24.9g; Sodium 0.4mg. (Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)
A Few Ideas for Variations:
Apricot-Almond: Use 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried apricots and 2 tablespoons date (to measure 1/2 cup total); use almonds for the nuts.
Tropical: Use tropical fruit bits (these come pre-packaged at the supermarket); use raw cashews for the nuts. Add 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, and 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice to the mix.
PB & J (cheap and delicious!): Use 1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries and 1/4 cup raisins or dates; use raw or roasted peanuts (lightly salted or unsalted) for the nuts.
Blueberry Bliss: Use 1/4 cup dried blueberries and 1/4 cup dates; use almonds for the nuts. Add 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, and a drop of almond extract to the mix.
Cashew Cookie Dough: Reverse the proportions of fruit to nuts--Use 1/3 cup dates for the fruit and 1/2 cup raw cashews for the nuts.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: Same as cashew cookie dough, but add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, pinch of cinnamon and 1/2 ounce very finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate to the mix.
Peanut Butter Cookie Dough: Same as cashew cookie dough but use raw or roasted (lightly salted) peanuts for the nuts.
Dates Nutrition Notes:
Dates are included in a majority of the LARA Bars, so I thought I’d mention a few facts about these wonderful fruits.
I love dates because I love brown sugar, and dates taste like brown sugar candy--hence they are a delicious and healthy way to curb my sweet tooth. One date has a mere 23 calories and is loaded with nutrition. Dates are an excellent source of carbohydrates (great for pre- or post-workout), contain no cholesterol, are high in fiber, and boast a wide range of nutrients, including calcium (32 mg per serving), Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and Manganese.
Dates also contain vitamins A1, B1, B2, B3, B5, C and more than 20 different amino acids; they help in the digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates, and help to regulate blood sugar levels and fatty acids content in our bodies.