Michael Pollan’s mantra, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” is as close as I get to a diet plan. For one thing, the fads are always changing—who can keep up? And for another thing, there are always too many rules.
While I’m much too easily distracted to be a successful calorie-counter or a no-carb commando, I feel like certain trends—such as focusing on nutrient-dense foods and limiting refined sweeteners—can carry their weight.
So with that in mind, and with a pantry full of cocoa, nuts, and pitted dates dangerously close to their sell-by dates, I set out to create something delicious.
The resulting bars were dense, fudgy, and brownie-like; full of rich, chocolate flavor from a handful of wholesome, minimally processed ingredients.
Note: This recipe requires a food processor.
1 cup whole almonds
½ cup each walnut and pecan halves
2/3 cup cocoa (this recipe was tested with Dutch-process cocoa, which has been treated with alkali; natural cocoa will result in lighter-colored bars with a slightly fruitier flavor)
½ tsp kosher salt
3 cups (tightly packed) dried, pitted dates
¼ cup virgin coconut oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 T water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9x13” baking pan with coconut oil and line it with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over the short sides of the pan slightly (this will allow you to pull the bars out of the pan after they cool, making them far easier to cut).
Place the nuts, cocoa, and salt in a food processor and process for about 30 seconds. Scrape around the bottom and edges if needed, and pulse several times until the nuts are finely ground—do not process all the way into nut butter. Transfer the nut mixture to a clean bowl and set aside.
Place the dates, coconut oil, and vanilla in the food processor and process for about 45 seconds or until the dates are finely chopped—this will be quite loud and may produce a small amount of steam from all the friction. Add the eggs and water to the date mixture and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides if needed, add the nut mixture, and process till the mixture comes together in a large mass—it will be quite dense and sticky.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and use a well-greased spatula to spread it out into an even layer. Bake at 350 for 17 minutes. Cool completely. Use the parchment “handles” to lift the bars out of the pan and use a greased pizza cutter (or knife) to cut into squares.
Store in an airtight container (with parchment between the layers to keep bars from sticking together) at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Makes approximately 18 bars.
For an alternative to a brownie sundae, try these bars warmed in the microwave for 20 seconds and topped with a dollop of natural peanut butter, some fresh, sliced bananas, and a sprinkling of chopped dark chocolate.