While February has come and is mostly gone, I am sure most of us are still craving something sweet that is not so much a holiday cookie (ahem, raise your hand if you still have a few in your freezer....), but is equally as satisfying to that sweet tooth...and a liiiiittle healthy, maaaaybe? I mean, they are totally virtuous, full of high-quality healthy fats, fiber and complex carbs. And don't taste like cardboard, as I find many pre-made granola bars do. These dudes are a perfect snack to go with all those hot cups of coffee/tea that the cold and (sometimes) dreary February/March inevitably comes with, along with the sharp cold that seems to even be here in CA...This is my spin on one of my favorites, and a classic combo (fig + walnut, see recipe here!): apricot bars made with fruity CA extra virgin olive oil, nutty coconut and a hug rubble of CA walnuts. They are really all very delcious when in close proximity in a bar. My inspiration for the apricot came two-fold: first, my boo does not adore the crunchy seeds in dried figs; second, I had spectacular apricot and dark chocolate rugelach a few weeks ago that keeps re-surfacing in my mind (so really I think I should just get on with it, and make rugelach!). But anyways, the bars are a fabulous showcase not in cookie form of the declicious and nutritous power of apricots.
Tuck away in the fridge or freezer to keep them cool and ready for your snacking pleasure. For an extra gooey treat, just warm up in the oven or zap in the microwave for a few seconds. I don't mind a dollop of plain greek yogurt on these either, and would wager that a scoop of ice cream would be mighty fine, too.Note on the Apricots: If you cannot find the dark and mysterious and slightly musty Turkish apricot, not to worry. You can totally use their bright-orange cousins! I just love the caramely flavors of Turkish apricots. Just be sure that when you're buying dried apricots, that there isn't any added sugar or other ingredients. If you do not have a well-stocked bulk aisle, and can only get the bright-orange dried apricots, that is ok-they likely contain sulpher dioxide, which is added to permanently interact with with the polyphenol oxidase enzyme (PPO) that turns fruits and veggies brown once cellular integrity is compromised, and the enzyme interacts with the various phenolic compounds found in fruits and veggies (i.e. when cutting, smashing, drying, etc....this lovely enzyme is why bananas and apples turn brown after you peel/bite/cut into them).
Apricot, Coconut & Olive Oil Bars // makes 9 hearty snack-sized bars //
Base and Topping:
- 1 ½ TB chia seeds or ground flax seeds or 1 large egg
- ¼ cup (63g) water
- scant 2 cups (about 250g) walnuts
- 3/4 cup (about 60g) dried, unsweetened coconut
- 2 cups (200g) rolled oats (not instant oats)
- ¼ cup (60g) mashed banana, unsweetened apple sauce, or milk of choice (I used unsweetened cashew milk)
- 2 TB maple syrup or honey
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¾ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 cups (300g) dried apricots, using un-sulphered or turkish apricots if possible
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 orange (about ½ cup)
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Water, if needed
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly oil an 8”x8” pan, or line with parchment paper. Start the apricot filling by simmering all the ingredients in a pan, adding a TB or two of water if needed. There should be about 1” of liquid in the bottom of the pan, but this doesn’t need to be exact. Cook until the apricots plump up and are soft enough to puree, about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Off the heat and allow to cool while you proceed.
Meanwhile the figs are simmering, prepare the base and topping mixture: in a food processor, pulse 1 cup (100g) of the oats until a coarse flour is made. Add in scant 1 cup of the walnuts, along with the salt, about 2/3 of the unsweetened coconut (reserve some for topping the bars), baking powder and sea salt. Pulse to make a medium-fine meal of walnuts. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mash the banana. Add in the chia/flax/egg, water, oil, maple syrup/honey and vanilla. Stir to combine. Add the dry mixture in the food processor bowl, and the other 1 cup of oats, and mix thoroughly.
Pat about ⅔ of the mixture into the lightly greased 8”x8” pan, taking care to have a relatively even layer and compact mixture to prevent the bars from crumbling while cutting and handling.
In the bowl of the food processor or blender (no need to rinse it from the oat mixture): Puree the warm apricots, scraping the down the food processor as needed until smooth. Spread the mixture over the dough layer in the pan, spreading as evenly as possible.
Crumble the remaining dough mixture over the top of the fig layer. Crumble the remaining 1 cup (140g) of walnuts and reserved coconut over the top, gently pressing the crumble, walnuts and coconut into the apricot layer.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until browned on top. Allow to cool thoroughly before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Choose your egg! Add either the flax/chia egg mixture, and your desired plant milk or mashed banana or applesauce to the coarse walnut/oat/coconut/baking powder/cinnamon/sea salt mixture, and mix mix mix! You'll have a kinda sticky-gloopy situation on your hands, but all is well. Trust. Ok, so at this point, you should have pureed your stewed apricot mixture. It should be thick, but still be moist enough to spread easily. Moist. I kinda disklike that word but we'll roll with it. After patting 2/3 of the base mixture into the greased or parchment-lined 8"x8"x pan, schmear as evenly as possible the apricot goo. Mmm...Top with the remaining base mixture (so really, making it the topping now!), walnuts and coconut. Press just kinda firmly to tell those loose bits and pieces that you are the boss and that they will stick and be friendly with the apricot filling. They all won't cooperate, but that is cool. Snack on some grapefruit wedges, too. Bake until the walnuts and coconut on top are lightly brown, and the aroma of musty and sweet dried apricots fill the air. Slice, serve, save, enjoy...repeat!