Don't want to burst your bubble (or maybe you're happy?) but summer is swiftly coming to an end and here on the East coast school is about to start (some of you are doing the happy dance right now, right?) I'm sorta in between. I love the summer but I'm kind of looking forward to the change of seasons and wearing jeans again. Anyhow, no matter how you feel about all of this, I just know you are going to LOVE these easy and nutritious Fruit and Nut Bars. They're perfect for tucking into lunch boxes, backpacks, handbags, jacket pockets...no matter where you take 'em they'll give you and those you love that extra little boost during the busy days ahead!
Guys, these are tasty! Really tasty! And as the title says, easy too! They're also extremely versatile. Here, I used dates, apricots and walnuts but you could easily sub in dried cherries, raisins, prunes, figs etc. and in the nut department, pecans or almonds or whatever. Or you can totally leave out the nuts entirely, just use more dried fruit and have yourself a wonderful nut-free bar.
Plus, and this is a biggie when it comes to snack time, you can totally control what goes into these babies and by extension, your snack eaters. Too many of the bars out there are loaded with sugar and all sorts of artificial stuff we really, really don't want to be putting into little bodies (or our own big ones, for that matter) and so it makes me so happy to be able to throw these together and know that they're just full of good, simple ingredients.
And, these will cost you scads less (notice my highly scientific terminology) than buying them readymade--I haven't exactly done the calculations, but I just know that making 16 little bars of these will save you $, the same way I know that I can buy an entire box of tea bags for the price of one cup of tea at Starbucks!
Every bite of crunchy, chewy, sweet goodness will make that end-of-summer-getting-back-into-non-summer-life a little bit easier!
Easy Fruit & Nut Bars
Makes 16 small bars
Prep Time: 10-12 minutes; Bake Time: 35-40 minutes
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 cups (7 ounces) walnuts or pecans or any other nut you prefer
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) dates, pitted and cut into quarters (here’s a site you can check out to buy some wonderful organic ones from)
1 cup (5 ounces) dried apricots, cut into halves or quarters if large
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325ºF and line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Set aside
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda and powder and salt together well in a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, walnuts, dates and apricots and use your fingers to mix them into the flour mixture, separating any large sticky clumps and making sure all is coated with the flour.
3. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the vanilla until thick and light in color. Pour into the large bowl and use your hands to mix everything together so that the fruit and nuts are lightly coated with the egg mixture. Transfer to the prepared pan and spread out evenly, making sure to get into the corners.
4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the "cake" has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Let cool on a rack. Then, lift the ends of the foil to remove the slab from the pan and place on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife and cut into 16 squares. I like to wrap these individually in plastic wrap to put in lunches or backpacks for busy days but you can also store them in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week and even longer in the fridge.
Note: Recipe adapted from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich. Feel free to sub in or out any dried fruit or not you like better or have on hand. These are very versatile!