Ever looked at the ingredients list on a LaraBar? It’s basically just dried fruit and nuts — nothing else. I think my favorite flavor (Cherry Pie) lists cherries, cashews. That’s my kind of convenience food.
But there’s that matter of the price tag. While I’ve no problem grabbing one when on-the-go and in need of a blood-sugar fix, I don’t want to drop the cash to unwrap a bar every day. Plus, my kids like them. And we all know the pain of watching your children discover a delicious mommy-treat, becoming fierce competition in the pantry habitat (I still rue the day I encouraged my kids to choose dark over milk chocolate — now none of them will touch a Hershey’s kiss, but they’ll scrap for my Chocolove bar).
Many months ago, I found a post that gave a formula, of sorts, for making your own. I’ve been using it since then, never making the same bars twice (and yes, I finally made my own version of Cherry Pie, but didn’t write down what I used, and curse if I’ve not been able to repeat them).
The great thing about it is that you can throw in whatever you have. At a bare minimum, you need dried fruit and nuts. Preferably, you have at least a cup of pitted dates — I’ve started keeping them in my pantry for this reason — because they are full of digestive enzymes that take the benefits of these bars up a notch (about $5/pound in bulk at your health food store). My luxury additions include — you guessed it — dried cherries, since those are a thing of which I apparently cannot get enough.
A food processor makes these a breeze, but you could likely get away with a mini-prep processor or other chopper, working in batches. If you have neither of those, but are adventurous and looking for a bicep workout, go at the fruit and nuts with a chef’s knife until they are pulverized.
Just be ready to stash these somewhere, or make up a mystifying name for them, or in some other way deflect questions of their existence. Otherwise, it’ll be survival of the fittest — may the most snack-desperate mom/dad/chef win.
Recipe: Homemade Lara Bars
: based on this post at GNOWFGLINS
makes about 20 1×1/5″ bars
I like to use at least 1 cup dates in every batch I make, then use a mix of fruits for the additional necessary cup. If you like the flavor of cherries, but not the price, try starting with just a quarter-cup, using dates and raisins as the rest of the fruit. If the cherry flavor isn’t strong enough, use more on your next batch. Feel free to make up recipes — try a pinch of cinnamon with dried apples for an Apple Pie flavor, or maybe a little lemon zest with apricots & golden raisins to make a Lemon Chiffon. This recipe is meant to be a base for experimentation — with the ratios below you really can’t go wrong.
I use raw nuts and seeds that have been soaked & dehydrated, to help nutrient absorption and digestion. You can also use roasted nuts, but look for those that have no additional flavorings and are naturally-roasted (if salted, be careful adding salt in step 1). If you can find it, look for fruit with no sulfites or sugar added.
- 2 cups unsulphured, unsweetened dried fruit
- pinch sea salt (may omit if nuts are salted)
- 1-2 Tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
- 1 1/3 cups nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, or a mix)
- 1/3 cup optional additions (dried unsweetened coconut, seeds such as flax, sesame, pumpkin)
- 1 Tbsp (or more) water, if necessary
- Chop large pieces of fruit into smaller pieces. Place the dried fruit, salt, and optional cocoa powder in workbowl of a food processor. Process until fruit is finely chopped and begins to form a ball. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
- Add nuts and any optional additions to empty workbowl, and process until finely-ground.
- Return fruit to bowl with the nuts. Process to combine. Squeeze the mixture — if it doesn’t stick together, add water, 1 Tbsp at a time, and process. Dough is ready when it holds together.
- Press dough into an 8×8″ baking pan. Refrigerate for about half an hour, or until firm enough to cut into bars.
- Store bars in an airtight container for up to a week.
Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.