While I'm in Sydney these few weeks, I've been spending a lot of time with my father and youngest sister who's 11. As a result, I've been thinking a lot about healthy plant-based treats I can make her that she'll enjoy. I wanted to make something that she'd be able to grab and take with her to swimming and gymnastics, and so created this recipe this week. These bars are a delicious blend of cacao, coconut, cashews, raisins and a hint of vanilla. They have just the right level of sweetness (not too much), and are about a tenth of the cost of buying pre-made raw fruit and nut bars from the store. They're also super easy to make in your food processor, and if you have kids or grandkids yourself you can get them involved too.
I mentioned last week about how I recommend storing your raw sweet treats, in my Lemon Coconut Truffle post here. Essentially, if they include a water component (such as soaked nuts or fruit juice) then they're best kept in the freezer to keep them firm and fresh. If however they only consist of dried fruit and nuts with no liquid, you can happily keep them in the fridge for many weeks.
So when to use soaked nuts and when to use dry?
To Soak or Not to Soak
You may have heard of soaking your nuts, seeds, grains and legumes, and wondered why on earth you'd go to the extra effort. Soaking nuts ands grains removes their outer layer of phytic acid and initiates the sprouting process, which makes their fats and proteins more digestible. That layer is there to otherwise protect the nut from being munched by predators, and prevents it from going rancid! Smart little things plants are.
I generally use nuts in three ways and would recommend you trying these also. Soak them overnight, rinse and drain, then use them as is, dry or dehydrate them at low temperatures so they remain raw but crunchy, or roast them lightly. Roasting reduces nuts' potential rancidity, makes them easier to digest, and increases their warming qualities, but only lightly roast as overheating harms their delicate oils.
Here are some tips for my three recommended methods of nut preparation (and I refer to them in recipes as such):
Soaked: Soak overnight in water (filtered if possible), then drain and rinse well. Use immediately, or pat dry and store in a sealed container in the fridge for 2 days or freezer for up to 2 months. Great to use when a creamy texture is desired such as in my Coconut Cashew Chia Cream and Creamy Lemon Cheesecake.
Raw (soaked then dehydrated): Soak overnight as above, rinse in morning, drain and pat dry. Pour into a single layer in a baking tray, and bake overnight (~12 hours) at 50°C until dry and crunchy. Allow to cool completely, then use or store in a glass jar in a cool dark place, or in the freezer in a sealed container. Perfect for drier recipes such as my Lemon Coconut Truffles or this week's Cacao Coconut Bars.
Roasted: As per the raw dehydrated version, but roast lightly at 150°C for 8-15 minutes until just crunchy. Allow to cool completely, then use or store in a glass jar in a cool dark place, or in the freezer in a sealed container. This is a quicker version of drying your nuts than the raw dehydrated method, and also good for nuts which taste better roasted such as the hazelnuts in my Ferrero Rocher Choc Hazelnut Truffles.
Nuts are one of my favourite energy dense foods. They are rich sources of protein and fat, and contain high levels of vitamin E which protects the nerves, skin, and is essential for liver function. They are also high in polyphenols and protease inhibitors, both compounds which help prevent cancer. Nuts contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats which lower blood cholesterol. They're also low GI meaning they help regulate blood sugar, and are good for diabetics as well as regular individuals wanting consistent energy levels.
Despite my dear love for nuts, they are high energy dense foods so are best enjoyed in moderation, particularly if you're wanting to lose weight. And when I'm talking nuts I'm talking about the raw organic one, not honey roasted peanuts and salted cashews (although a handful on a Friday night won't hurt).
These snack bars are best kept in the fridge in a sealed container, and will last for at least two weeks. You can alternatively store them in the freezer for up to two months. And by the way, they're not just great for kids, they make excellent adult snacks too! Wrap one up and take it with you to work or uni, if you don't have a fridge onsite just keep them in the freezer overnight beforehand so they stay nice and firm till consumption.
Have a go this week - they're truly delicious I promise. Sometimes the simplest things are best. And if you'd like to share your delicious snack bars over on Instagram, be sure to tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics so I can come say hello and check out your glorious creations. Have a wonderful weekend.
Makes 6 snack bars (or double recipe for 12)
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c = 250ml cup, tbsp = 15ml tablespoon, tsp = 5ml teaspoon