When I went to bed last night, the snow had already started. In fact, it had started while I was on my way to dinner to meet friends at my favorite NYC spot, Siggy’s Good Food. The weather put me in a winter meal mode, so I bookended my Live Earth Salad with a Lentil Soup and Almond Milk Hot Chocolate. I have a habit of getting almond milk hot chocolates when I can during winter since most places don’t have anything other than soy milk as a non-dairy option. By the time we left the restaurant, there was enough snow on the ground to throw a couple snowballs and make some pseudo snow angels – it would have made for interesting train rides home if we actually lied down in the snow, so we just made mini angels with our feet. In other words, we did a little snow dance.
I woke up (on my last official day of vacation – boooo!) to see lots more white on the ground. After drinking my warm lemon water, I layered on my jeans over my leggings and put on my wool socks and tall galoshes. A few more layers and I headed out into the quiet morning (a rarity in this city) to my 9:30am spin class with Ellie at Crank. Not only is she an awesome instructor (high energy, great personality) but she offered me a pair of socks – her boyfriend’s, actually – when I realized that I had forgotten to grab my sports socks. His were a little big, and required some pinning and rolling, but definitely a better option than my thick wool knee highs.
After a sweaty good time, I popped into my natural market across the street to pick up some goodies and came home to do what most of us do (or should do) on snow days – nest and cook. I had been wanting to make a red lentil soup and some type of raw bar for a while, so today was the day. I first did a bit of studying (I have a couple more weeks left of my program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) and then started the Nanaimo Bars I chose to make. The recipe I made was adapted from one by Leanne at Healthy Pursuit, but the bars are a traditional Christmas treat in Canada so I figured them perfect for a wintery day.
First let me say, that it ended up being much more decadent than I anticipated. Totally my bad since I should have realized from the ingredients and photos — the fact that Leanne actually says they are “sinfully delicious”. I might have been subconsciously craving a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, which they ended up being reminiscent of.
Second, there are relatively few ingredients but from start to finish they actually took quite a bit of time between the prep and setting time for each of the 3 layers. I also made the date syrup aka paste (see below) before I could even get started on the recipe itself.
Third, the recipe calls for date syrup, which you can replace with honey or rice syrup. I wanted them vegan so the honey was out, and I didn’t have rice syrup. So I looked up a recipe for date syrup, which was super simple, and decided to make it. The problem was that in following the recipe, I ended up with something that was not syrup consistency. I added in more dates thinking that would help, but it didn’t. Long story short, I had more of a date paste than a syrup. For the recipe, I decided to do 1/2 date paste and 1/2 coconut nectar to hopefully help with the binding properties. To note, I did find a couple other ways to make the date syrup, which I’m going to try for next time I need some. At first I was worried about the crumb texture bottom, but it turns out that is how they are actually supposed to be.
In the end, they came out tasty – like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with a Chocolate Coconut Cookie Bottom. In fact, they are tasty enough that I put them in the freezer so they won’t disappear to quickly.
Update: Putting them in the freezer was a great idea not only because they won’t disappear too quickly, but they taste better (in my opinion) super cold. Also, they are easy to cut so it’s easier to take a sliver at a time versus an entire bar – and a sliver of this decadent treat is all you need to satisfy a sweet tooth.
- ¼ cup extra virgin coconut oil
- ⅓ cup cacao powder
- ¼ cup date syrup, raw honey or rice syrup
- Flesh from 2 vanilla beans or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¾ cup almond flour
- ¾ cup quinoa flakes
- 1½ cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut
- 1 cup sunflower seed butter
- 1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
- ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla quinoa milk or other non-dairy milk
- Flesh from 2 vanilla beans or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 oz. 70% bittersweet baking chocolate
- Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper across both sides for easy lifting. Oil the places that show through with a dab of coconut oil and set aside.
- BOTTOM LAYER
- In a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water (or double-boiler if you have one), melt the coconut oil. Gradually add in cocoa powder, whisking until incorporated. Add the date syrup (or honey/rice syrup), and vanilla. Stir in ground almonds and coconut. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until firm.
- MIDDLE LAYER
- Using your stand or hand mixer, place all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more milk (I added a touch more). Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 45 minutes.
- TOP LAYER
- In a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water (or double-boiler), melt the chocolate. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes, just until the chocolate has set. Don’t wait too long or it will be impossible to cut the bars. Cut into 16 squares with a sharp knife. Place the cut squares back in the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden even more so that they are easier to eat.