Date + Nut Bars (Homemade Lara Bars)

Vegan. Soy free. Dairy free. Gluten free. But far from taste free. If you've never tried a Lara Bar because they seem like they're lacking all the good stuff, we ask that you give them a chance. And if you're more into making things yourself, so you know exactly what goes into them, then this recipe is for you. 

The base of every Lara Bar is pulverized dates- which are full of fiber and are wonderfully sweet. And they just so happen to be on sale in the Produce Department right now. These bars are also chock full of dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and spices. If you can't find a packaged variation that you like, then you can use this recipe to create your own Date + Nut Bars with whichever tasty additions you choose. 

Cherry Pie Date + Nut Bars
To make this recipe you will need:
1 cup packed dried cherries
1/4 cup whole dates, packed and pitted
1 cup warm water
1 cup raw almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and grease it with mild-flavored olive oil or vegetable oil. In a small bowl, combine the cherries, dates and warm water. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, until the fruit is soft. Drain the fruit and pat dry.  While the fruit is soaking, place the almonds in a food processor and blend until finely chopped (but stop before you make almond butter). Add the dried fruit and salt and pulse the ingredients until the mixture begins to clump to the side of the bowl- up to two minutes. Transfer the mixture to prepared pan and place a piece of wax or parchment paper on top, coated with more oil. Press the mixture down into the bottom of the pan and flatten it out. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Lift the bars out of the bottom of the pan with the plastic wrap lining and cut into 6 bars. The bars will keep at room temperature for the days, or refrigerated, wrapped in plastic for up to three months. 

For the Chocolate Brownie Date + Nut Bars:
1 cup dates, packed and pitted
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw walnuts
3 tablespoons chocolate chips
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Prepare bars the same as above.