Thursday, 3 April 2014

Date Squares {no bake, sugar free, gluten free, vegan, easy)


If you know me at all you probably know that secretly there is an old lady in me trying to find her way out. She usually presents herself in Friday night bake-fests, my love for spending hours walking through museums, as well as my secret love for knitting. This time she came out in a date square craving that I knew I could not pass up. It also helps that one of my favourite ladies in the whole world (who is very young at heart and not old by any means) is coming to visit me next week and I knew we'll happily enjoy these date squares over a warm cuppa coffee and one of our worldly chats. My grandma is coming to visit this Monday and one of our favourite things to do together is sit and talk about anything and everything. I also share her love for museums, which works out well, because it's hard to find another person who likes spending an entire day in a museum together. Two years ago we visited the Musée D'orsay in Paris together and blissfully spent over seven hours looking at art as I listened to her explanations of the numerous beautiful paintings and sculptures. I have a hunch that J might have been happy he missed out on that one ;)


Like travelling with my grandma, these date squares make me sooo happy. Not only are they sugar free, gluten free, and vegan but they also taste just like the butter and sugar ridden treats I used to snatch up at our local church's pot luck as a kid or the kind I'd always find at big family get together's. If you are not familiar with date squares let me fill you in before we get into things. They are composed of three layers: a bottom cookie-like crust, a middle ooey-gooey carmel-y date layer and a crunchy and sweet crumble top.


Let's get real, usually date squares are not the healthiest of desserts. Traditionally, the crust and crumble are made by mixing together flour and butter. Betty Crocker's method also calls for boiling the dates with brown sugar until an ooey-gooey center is formed. Sounds awesome, right? Probably and imnotgonnalie that method does taste pretty darn good but in all my health consciousness I knew there was probably a better way way to whip these babies up using less of all of the above. 

The brown sugar that the traditional date square called for seemed a bit out of place to me because dates are already a super sweet treat. Honestly, they are like earth's natural sugar. Often in the afternoon, when my sweet tooth starts calling, I'll  grab a couple of dates to cut my craving and also for a nutritious energy boost. Dates are also packed full of tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants so not only do they taste great but they are amazing for you. I opted out of the sugar altogether because it is really not needed at all (sorry sugar but not sorry). I let the wonderful natural flavour of the dates shine through by not only using them in the ooey-gooey center but also in the crust and crumble as a natural binder along with some heart healthy coconut oil (bye bye butter!). 


These layered date squares are also very easy and simple to throw together - you just need to leave a couple of hours to let them chill out and set in the frige before devouring. First, I let the dates soak in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. This makes the dates that much sweeter and also makes them easier to process in the food processor. I made the decadent crust and crumble by processing three of my favourite foods - oats, coconut and pecans. While the dates are soaking, throw the pecans, shredded coconut and oats into the food processor and process until a course powder is formed. Add in the dates and coconut oil and pulse until a crumbly and moist dough is formed. Set aside 3/4 of a cup for the third crumble layer and press the remaining dough into the bottom of a pan lined with parchment. Now add in the the rest of the dates with some of the sweet date water, a splash of lemon juice and a dash of sea salt. Process the dates until a gooey caramel-like date paste is formed. Spread the golden date mixture on top of the cookie layer and evenly sprinkle the remaining crumble on top. Now all you have to do is play the waiting game until the date squares have fully set after chilling out in the fridge for a couple of hours. Simple, right? Feel free to share these at your next family event or at your church potluck and put the old method of making date squares to shame. I froze mine and will be enjoying these with Grandma on Monday along with one of our notorious long chats! :)


 Wishing you a great week  Let me know what you think or if you try this out in the comments, I love hearing your feedback!






Date Squares

Makes 16 or 24 date squares.; Prep. time 20 minutes + 30 minutes for soaking dates, Chill Time: 2 hours +. 
Inspired by these two amazing recipes on Oh She Glows and Detoxinista.

Note: Soaking the dates before processing them in the food processor brings out their natural sweetness as well as makes them much easier to process in the food processor. Make sure to line your square baking pan (9x9 or 8x8) with parchment paper or plastic wrap for easy transferring and less clean up. After throwing these squares together, allow them to chill out and set in the fridge for at least 2 hours [or overnight]. These date squares cut best when cold with a sharp knife. Cut into 16 or 24 pieces depending on how big your want each date square - keep in mind that these are very sweet (I prefer cutting them into 24). Keep these date squares in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze for up to a couple weeks.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups dates (soaked in boiling water for at least 10 minutes)

  • 1 cup pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup packed, soaked and pitted dates
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

  • 2 cups packed, soaked and pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup water (from the soaked dates)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp lemon juice

      • Instructions
  1. Soak 3 cups of pitted dates in boiling water for 30 minutes [do not discard the water!!]. Place parchment or plastic wrap, two-ways, in the bottom of an 8x8 or 9x9 square baking pan.
  2. Pulse pecans in the food processor until they turn into a course powder. Add shredded coconut, oats, sea salt, and cinnamon and pulse until your mixture has processed into a course powder. Add soaked dates and pulse until the dates are fully cut up and mixed into the (almost) dough mixture. Add coconut oil and pulse a few times, scraping down sides when necessary, until a crumbly dough is formed that is easily pressed together with your fingers.
  3. Measure out 3/4 cup of the mixture and save for the crumble topping. Scoop dough into the square baking pan. Press an even layer, with the palms of your hands,  on the bottom of your pan (dough might be a bit sticky - that is okay). Place in fridge to cool slight for 5 minutes while you prepare the ooey-gooey date middle layer.
  4. Process the final 2 cups of soaked dates in the food processor with 1/4 cup of water from the soaked dates, sea salt, and lemon juice until you have an almost creamy consistent sticky and pourable (*but not runny*) consistency. If the mixture seems too thick add a bit more water by the tbsp until the desired consistency is formed.
  5. Take the pan out of the fridge. Pour the date mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula on top of the first crust layer. Evenly smooth out with the back of a spoon. 
  6. Evenly crumble, with your fingers, the remaining 3/4 cup of the dough mixture onto the top of the 2nd date layer. Lightly press the crumble layer into the dates (so they do not "fly" away)
  7. Cool for 2 or more hours in the fridge. They are easiest to cut when they are cold directly from the fridge. Cut into 16 or 24 pieces depending on the desired size (see note).
  8. Devour, Share and Enjoy :)

Nutritional Benefits: A healthy dose of healthy fats,  iron and manganese - plus these treats contain absolutely no cholesterol!

Find Additional Nutritional Information and Points+ here















Let's Chat: What's your favourite square type dessert (brownies, magic 7 layer bars...)?



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Friday, 21 March 2014

My first 10 km, Weight Maintenance & Looking Forward

On Wednesday evening I finished my first ten km race! In my very first blog post here at Ceara's Kitchen I discuss how I've grown from a state where I'd lose my breath attempting to run to catch the bus at the end of the street towards becoming one of those crazy people - you know who are you are ;) - who actually look forward to their morning jog. This post is a bit of a catch up of how I am doing running wise, in terms of maintaining my weight and what goals I am looking forward to in the upcoming future. If you need a catch up on my "before and ever-continuing after" I talk about overcoming my past of yo-yo dieting and continually working towards living a healthier lifestyle here.

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