Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vegan Larabars

One of my September goals was to make something out of dates. Lauren and I have a favorite farmers' market in Sacramento; they have the widest selection and best prices by far! One Sunday morning when we were there (before moving to Philadelphia), we came across a booth selling dates that offered us samples. I don't recall ever eating a date before, but this one was super sweet and really chewy! The two nice ladies there told us that they keep well in the refrigerator. We were sold!
I've seen so many recipes for raw desserts using dates that I figured I would make something like that. The plan was to make something in Sacramento, but time passed so quickly and we never got around to it. So we did the next best thing. We brought the packaged dates with us to Philadelphia in our suitcases! Crazy? Perhaps. But definitely worth it!

One of our favorite snacks to eat has been Larabars, but since moving to Philadelphia and not having easy access to Target, our cheapest supply of Larabars has been cut off. Because we're living on a budget and doing our best to stick to it, that meant a lot of our favorite unnecessary foods had to be cut out, like Larabars. Since I was craving these wonderful, tasty snacks, I decided to ditch the raw vegan cheesecake idea and opted to make Larabars instead!

If you know me well, you know that I can be a pretty impatient person. I hate doing research; I just want to jump right into the project. So I googled "vegan Larabars" and chose one of the first few links that popped up. I quickly scanned over Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe and decided to give it a go. They were delicious; Lauren and I devoured them within a few days. So of course I had to make them again and use up the remainder of the dates. I altered her recipe a bit to fulfill the need for Larabar-lookalikes and also because I don't own a food processor. The following method is what worked best for my situation.
I used the exact amounts of all the ingredients the recipe called for (but I made 3 batches at once); I just adjusted the process. I blended the cashews and  chocolate chips together in my Magic Bullet until they were a powder-like consistency. I pitted the dates and then chopped them up as fine as I could get them. I found that it worked best to ball up the dates and chop the ball up into super skinny cross sections, and then cross section them again. When I got tired of chopping, I dumped the dates, the powdered cashew and chocolate chip mixture, vanilla, and salt into a quart sized Ziploc bag and mixed everything together in there. When I was satisfied with the texture and taste, I emptied the deliciousness into a lined Pyrex dish and used my hands to spread it out evenly. I found that it tastes so much better once it's been refrigerated, so I let it chill for a few hours before slicing and digging in. 

Making these Larabars for the second time was a much easier process than my first go-around. I learned what works best and what ends up being a complete failure from my first attempt. Initially I tried using the Magic Bullet as a food processor; I added everything, including the dates to the blender. Bad idea. Because the dates are so sticky, they stuck to the blades, stopping them from turning. Basically, the Magic Bullet wouldn't blend with the dates in there, and the whole apparatus smelled like burnt rubber. I just assumed the cashews and chocolate chips wouldn't blend well in the Magic Bullet either, so the first time I made these Larabars, I chopped all of the ingredients by hand. While this worked, it took forever and was exhausting. With the above modifications however, the Larabars were a breeze to make and I have no issues with making them again in the future.
I don't remember how much we spent on the dates, so I'm not sure if our homemade Larabars are actually cheaper than store bought ones. Regardless though, they're delicious and I definitely see myself making them again...just as soon as I find another (closer) source of good dates! Philly dates, where you at?