Before my recent surgery, my friend Jac came to visit me, bearing gifts to entertain me during my convalescence. One of them was a copy of Vegetarian Times, since she’d heard that I was trying to cook vegetarian, in addition to all my other dietary restrictions. All I can say is THANK YOU, JAC! The recipes in this issue are fantastic! At least they look fantastic–I’ll only really know how they taste once I actually make them. This week’s recipe was one of them, and since one of the ingredients is one of Brian’s favorite new food items, I had to make this one first. Chia seeds, according to a book about running that Brian read this year, are extremely nutritious and restorative, especially for athletes. The seeds taste rather bland on their own, though, so I thought this recipe would make a nutritious snack for him.
Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars (Vegetarian Times‘ Special Healing Foods Cookbook, p. 32)
- 1 1/2 cups pitted dates
- 1/3 cup raw unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup whole chia seeds
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional
- 1/4 tsp almond extract, optional
- 1 cup raw slivered almonds or pistachios
- oat flour for dusting, optional
“1. Puree dates in food processor until thick paste forms. Add cocoa powder, chia seeds, and vanilla and almond extracts, if using. Pulse until combined. Add almonds; pulse until finely chopped and well distributed throughout mixture.
2. Spread sheet of wax paper on work surface; dust with oat flour, if using. Place date mixture on wax paper, and use paper to press mixture into 1/2-inch-thick rectangle. Wrap tightly; chill overnight.
3. Unwrap block, and cut into 8 bars. Dust edges and sides with oat flour, if using, to prevent sticking. Rewrap each bar in wax paper.”
Makes 8 bars.
Pitted dates are really a pain to puree. I’ll just say that first. My food processor is not the most fancy or high powered one ever, and it struggled with the gluey, ever-clumping mass of date goo. I used a lot of time and patience getting the dates to a seemingly appropriate consistency before adding the other ingredients. I decided to use both kinds of extract suggested, although I accidentally used a half tablespoon measure for the vanilla instead of a half teaspoon. Oops! At least we like vanilla.
Once the cocoa powder was added, it clouded up the food processor, so I had a difficult time telling when the ingredients were properly blended. But finally the mixture seemed consistent, so I added the sliced almonds, only to realize I was about one-third of a cup short. I hoped it wouldn’t make a big difference, and finished food processing the ingredients. Then I pressed them onto the wax paper-covered pan. I did not use oat flour, as oats can be an irritant to some people who cannot eat gluten. I didn’t use any substitute flour either. I just spread the mixture as it was.
Apparently I used too large of a pan, because the mixture definitely spread out, leaving less than a half inch in height to the bars. The ingredients still clumped, as I was trying to spread and press them flat, but I spread them the best that I could, and then covered them with more wax paper and put them in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
Perhaps due to not being the described thickness, the bars actually turned out more like a pan of chocolate-chia crumble. Brian ate it in a bowl, with almond milk on top, and declared it very good. I tried a few clumps from the pan, and liked the taste as well. The chia seeds give the mixture a pleasing crispy crunch, as well as giving the person eating it a virtuous feeling of eating nutritiously. The extracts and cocoa powder flavor both the seeds and the dates, leaving just a pleasantly sweet and flavorful blend.
I’m not sure if I want to make this recipe again, simple because of how much of a nuisance I found the pureeing process. It wasn’t a failure, just not on my list of easiest dishes to make. This does get me excited to try more recipes in from the same issue, though. Usually where there is one good recipe, you will find more.