COCONUT CHERRY CHIA BARS

2.27.2016

G told me about a food replacement product that is marketed towards people who aren't interested in the taste of food and/or don't have the time to eat but need calories to live. Apparently, it tastes like nothing and it delivers all the nutrients and calories one needs on a daily basis. I get the busy world we live in, but what??! Who doesn't like the taste of food? I'm so confused that people like this exist. I mean, at least drink a chocolate protein shake.

I've been known to eat random meals in a hurry, but it has to be delicious. My in-a-rush meal usually consists of rice and an egg, but since I had a kid portable snacks are the key to living. I never embraced Power Bars when they first emerged because I thought they tasted terrible, but bars have come a long way since then.

My only complaint with store-bought bars is they leave me with sugar mouth. Do you know what I'm talking about? I end up having to eat a bag of chips or pretzels to neutralize my tongue. Defeats the purpose of a healthy snack, ya know? A lot bars are bound with some sort of syrup, which makes sense because you have to be able to cut them. These days, dried dates are used in everything. I love dates, but even those are too sweet for me on a regular basis.

Homemade bars aren't novel, but making a different kind of bar takes some experimenting and thought outside the usual oat and nut realm. I figured if I blended a dried fruit with some sort of nut or seed and some fat it would have decent binding power. It was sort of a shock these worked on the first go, but it worked so well they were gone by the end of the day. Not sure these are that healthy to warrant eating so many, but it's definitely better than a bag of chips or zero-taste meal replacement powder.


NO BAKE COCONUT CHERRY CHIA BARS
~makes roughly 32 bars 

The first time I made this I used cashews, but I wanted to make a nut-free version for L's class. I prefer the cashews because the cherries come through a little more and the color is more vibrant, but both work equally well. I don't see any reason why almonds wouldn't work, but I'd steer away from anything strong like peanuts, hazelnuts or pecans. It's important the mixture holds together when you squeeze it, so if it doesn't you can always add a little honey, blitz more dried fruit or add a little nut/seed butter. Also, the ones pictured here weren't blended as well as the other batches I made. It doesn't really matter in terms of texture or taste, so if yours come out darker red, don't be alarmed! 

4 cups / 8 oz / 237 grams unsweetened dried coconut (shreds or flakes)
1-1 1/2 cups dried cherries
1 cup unsalted, raw sunflower seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch of pink Himalayan salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded dried coconut
1/4 cup chia seeds

Spray and line a 9 x 13" sheet pan with parchment. It helps to have overhanging sides of parchment, but it's not necessary. Set aside.
In a food processor with the blade attachment, blitz the 4 cups of dried coconut for 5-8 minutes until it turns into coconut butter. You may have to stop and scrape the sides down once or twice. It should look liquidy like nut butter.
Scrape into a medium bowl and set aside.
Place the dried cherries and sunflower seeds in the food processor (no need to clean the bowl) and blitz for 5-6 minutes until the mixture is very finely chopped and the seeds release their oils. It should clump together when you squeeze the mixture and look shiny.
Place the coconut butter back into the bowl, along with the vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pulse a few times until the mixture is well combined.
Fold in the 1 cup of shredded coconut and chia seeds.
Dump the mixture into the prepped pan and press down firmly with the back of another sheet pan or measuring cup.
Place the mixture in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up before cutting.
These bars will keep well in the fridge for a couple weeks (maybe longer, but they never make it that long). They are best consumed when slightly warmed to room temp for a few minutes.

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