Up until a few years ago, I didn't like dates. As a kid, I would think of them as giant raisins, a cousin to prunes, and that alone was enough to put me off. But it's true that as you grow up and grow older, your taste buds change, foods that tasted horrible before may undergo a miraculous transformation on your tongue and you find that you actually really like them. I can put a number of things in this category: broccoli, oatmeal, angel food cake, red bean soup, brussel sprouts, fresh coconuts, and of course, dates. (I sound like I was a horribly picky eater as a child, don't I? Oh dear. Is it too early in this blog to be honest?)
But since those times, I like to think that I've matured (read: learnt when and how to hide immaturity). These bars are a bit of a nod to that - I definitely wouldn't have voluntarily made these, say, five years ago. In fact, this is the type of recipe I would have shied away from while suppressing a shudder. No sugar? No fat? Bars that are actually good for you? Suspicions would have been raised instantly.
The thing is, these are nothing new. You've probably seen a million variations. And if you live in the US, you've probably tried one of these. It's probably a good thing I don't, considering the price for one of those bars, but as I understand it, these no-bake date bars taste basically the same.
These are healthy, nutritious and good. The last point is emphasized because, despite all claims about maturing taste buds, until I actually gingerly picked up a slice, took a tiny bite and discovered I really, really liked it, I still felt incredibly dubious and felt sure these would turn out tasting horrible and far too dry and fruity. So while I can't say that my eight-year-old self would have enjoyed these, the me now definitely does. These are a good thing, in more ways than one.
No-Bake Date Pecan Cranberry BarsAdapted from various sources all over the interweb
Makes 1 8x8 inch square pan of bars
Note: This is more of a ratio than a recipe. You can double or triple this recipe as you like to make more, replace pecans with other nuts (almonds or peanuts would probably work great) and the dried cranberries with other types of dried fruit. Also, unfortunately, you absolutely need a food processor for this recipe to get the right consistency for the dates.
250g pitted dates
100g dried cranberries
Line a 8x8 inch square pan with baking paper.
Put the pecans into the food processor and pulse a few times to chop them up. You want them roughly chopped with some chunky bits, so make sure you stop before they become finely ground. Put the chopped pecans in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Next, put the dried cranberries into the food processor and give it the same treatment as the pecans. You don't need to grind these to a paste, just roughly chop them up so they're in small pieces. Put them into the bowl with the pecans.
Then throw the dates into the food processor and let it process until it becomes a sticky mass and looks like a paste. It will stick together into a ball. Put this into the bowl with the other ingredients and using your hands (you really need to use your hands, a spoon would only waste your time), knead the mixture until everything is well mixed. Press this mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes, then remove from the fridge, slice and serve.