Chocolate Date Bars (Larabars)

Credit here goes to my good friend Katie, who showed me this recipe. She found it while browsing Pinterest, and the link for the original recipe is here. Katie kept raving about these Larabars, so I just had to try making them.

Larabars are a brand of fruit and nut bars that use natural ingredients and come in a variety of flavours. I have tried several of them, but not the peanutbutter chocolate chip ones because I am allergic to peanuts. With some modifications, I made a peanut-free version of these Larabars, inspired by Katie and the blog I mentioned above.

Ingredients
1 lb medjool dates (I get mine at Costco. I also only had 15, but the recipe called for 30)
1/2 cup raw or roasted almonds (no salt, preferably)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp feaux peanut butter (I used Wow Butter. Another nut butter would work well too)
1 tsp coconut oil
1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (ie. dark, no milk powder)

I put the almonds in a food processor and processed lightly, until the almonds crushed into small pieces. I took them out and put all the other ingredients except the chocolate chips into the food processor and food processed the mixture. (My tiny one-litre food processor couldn’t handle the dough, so when I make them again I will process the dough in smaller batches.) Lastly, I processed the mixture again with the chocolate chips added.

I formed the dough into a ball, placed it between two sheets of wax paper (parchment paper works too), and flattened the dough into a 1/2 inch-tall rectangle, using my finger tips (a rolling pin would work too). I refrigerated the dough for about an hour and then cut the dough into bars, around 3 inches by 1 1/2 inches. I wrapped the bars in small pieces of waxed paper and kept them in the fridge until I wanted to eat them.

20150325_171841These made an excellent snack for an extra boost of energy. I need all the energy I can get these days to get through my last three weeks of school!

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Raw Zucchini Lasagna

A special shout out goes to my Auntie Anne, who sent me a cookbook in the mail called Eat Raw, Eat Well by Douglas McNish. It was a lovely surprise to get this cookbook, as I did not know she was sending it, and I had never heard of the book. The recipes look absolutely delicious, and I finally made one. It’s called Layered Zucchini Lasagna in the book, and I made it with some slight variations. The biggest changes I made were in quantities (I halved most of the sauces), and I added or changed ingredients here and there. Here is what I did.

Ingredients for Cashew Ricotta Cheese
2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 yellow or red pepper (I used yellow)
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients for Marinara Sauce
2 tomatoes, quartered and seeded (push out the excess liquid and seeds)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1 tbsp chia seeds

Ingredients for Pesto
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 cup spinach
1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/8 cup flax oil (or olive oil)

Ingredients for Parmesan Cheese
Handful of raw almonds
3 tbsp nutritional yeast

Ingredients for Assembling the Lasagna
2 medium-sized zucchini
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

This whole dish requires a good food processor or a Vitamix. A tip I have is to add ingredients one by one so that the blending is easy. I always started with garlic and liquid, and ended with the most solid ingredient. This all depends on how good one’s mixer is.

First, I made the cashew cheese by blending all the ingredients (reserving half of the cashews) in a food processor until smooth,. I added the rest of the cashews last and blended again. I did this to have some of the cashews remain chunky. I reserved the cheese in a container and put it in the fridge.

Next, I made the marinara sauce by blending all of the ingredients, except the chia seeds, in the food processor. I stirred in the chia seeds last. I reserved the sauce in a container and put it in the fridge.

Then I made the pesto. I blended all the ingredients, except the flax oil, all at once in the food processor. I added the flax oil little by little and blended until smooth.I put the pesto in a container and reserved it in the fridge.

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The parmesan cheese is even easier. I pulsed the almonds and nutritional yeast in a food processor until the almonds became a chunky meal. It is important not to over-blend, as the almonds can start to turn into a butter.

To assemble the lasagna, I used a mandolin (thanks to Tom for that birthday gift) to cut the zucchinis length-wise, very thin. I made about 9 sliced. I lay out a piece of parchment paper and drizzled olive oil on top, then put the sliced zucchini on top and drizzled some more olive oil. I wanted the zucchini to be lightly coated, not soaked. I put salt and pepper on top and let them sit for ten minutes.

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Next, I placed three pieces of sliced zucchini on a large dish, side by side. I layered the ricotta cheese, pesto, and marinara sauce, in that order. The cheese took a bit of time to spread without moving the zucchini. I then layered three more pieces of zucchini on top, repeated the layer of sauces, then topped the lasagna with a final layer of zucchini. I added an extra layer of marinara sauce on top, and sprinkled a generous coating of the parmesan cheese on top. I let the lasagna sit for about an hour before eating, which lets the noodles soften and allows the flavours incorporate.

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Voila! I was pleasantly surprised with this recipe. It was delicious and full of flavour. I noticed that water starts to come out of it after an hour, and even more so when eaten as leftovers. It’s probably better made fresh, but we’ll see tomorrow!

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