I was a sugar fiend and junk-food junkie by the time I was preschool. My first steps were solicited with ice cream, and as a one-and-a-half-year-old flower girl in my uncle’s wedding, I was coaxed down the aisle with a Snickers Bar. These early encounters with over-processed, sugar-laden “foods” set in motion an addiction to sweets I struggle with to this day.
So when my daughter was old enough to start eating solids, it was very important to me to avoid feeding her not only foods with artificial ingredients, but also those with added sugars. As long as I was the custodian of her diet, I was going to take that role seriously.
Now that she’s old enough to ask for what she wants (and old enough to have been exposed to more than just what I keep in the pantry), some of her favorite requests remain fruits and nuts.
These incredibly easy, no-bake snack bars combine some of her favorite treats into a portable, anytime treat we can pack for the pool, road-trips, or shopping excursions—and they make a great post-workout (or anytime) treat for me as well. Sweet-tooth satisfied.
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1 cup dried, pitted dates (unsulfured and unsweetened)
1 cup dried Montmorency cherries (unsulfured and unsweetened or low sugar if available)
½ cup raw, unsalted almonds
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until the mixture forms a large, sticky mass, pausing every minute or so as needed to scrape down the sides and edges and allow the machine to cool briefly. If the mixture starts to steam or gets very warm from all the friction, you may wish to pause for a couple of minutes. If you have small children, consider letting them dump the ingredients into the processor and push the buttons to start and stop the machine (under your expert supervision, of course); my daughter loves “helping” like this.
Place the mixture between two sheets of parchment paper, or one large sheet folded in half. Use a rolling pin to roll the mixture into a half-inch-tall rectangle, approximately 5” x 6”.
Use a pizza cutter to cut into bars, approximately 1” x 3” each.
Wrap each bar in parchment paper, securing with a stick-on label. Note: the labels will stick better to themselves than the parchment, so aim for labels that are long enough to wrap all the way around the width of the bar. Store bars in a zip-top bag, cookie jar, or your preferred seal-able container at room temperature for up to three weeks.
Makes 10 yummy snack bars.