So far I’ve been doing pretty well on my elimination diet, except for my one “cheat” with a bit of oatmeal. Also, I forgot that lemon is citrus and I ate it several times. It’s so hard to cut out lemon that I’ve decided to leave it in. Could anyone really be allergic to lemons? I haven’t actually noticed any improvements in my allergies yet, but it’s only been a week and a half, so maybe it just takes more time.
The hardest part for me so far has been the nightly desire for a sweet snack of some sort. I said I was going to try to cut out added sugars as much as possible, and instead I’ve been eating Lara-type dried fruit and nut bars as a post-dinner dessert. They’re very tasty but a little bit too big for a dessert before bed. Also, they’re quite expensive (about 2 euros each). So I decided to try making my own. There are a million recipes online and I picked two to try: gingerbread bars and coconut cranberry bars.
I started with the recipe for gingerbread larbars from Leite’s Culinaria. The recipe lists amounts by volume rather than by weight, which isn’t ideal for a food like dates, so I’m putting the weight measurements here:
- 1/2 cup almonds (76g)
- 1/2 cup pecans (58g)
- 1 cup packed dates (200g) [the recipe calls for 1.25 by that's all I had]
- pinch salt [not in original recipe]
- splash of vanilla [not in original recipe]
- 3/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
I ground the nuts in the food process until they were pretty finely chopped. Next I was supposed to add the dry fruit and spices, but I was worried that if I added the powdered spices now they might just fall to the bottom of the food processor and not really mix in well, so I added the dates first and processed for a second. After just a few seconds, however, the mixture had formed into a very firm ball. Whoops. How was I supposed to get the dried spices mixed in now? I added them in and ran the food processor for quite a while, trying to break the ball up with a spoon to get the spices to mix in evenly. I was nervous about adding a full 3/4 tsp. of ginger and 1/8 tsp. of cloves, so I put less and then tasted, but indeed it needed the full amounts, maybe even a bit more. (My spices aren’t that fresh though.) In the end to get all the spices mixed in I really processed the mixture to death. It was extremely smooth, without any hint of nuts at all. You can taste the nuts of course, but their texture disappeared entirely. Another contributing factor might have been that I used very soft dates (Seeberger Soft was the brand). The mixture was so soft and sticky I wasn’t sure it would form into bars, so I put some saran wrap in a small square glass tupperware and pressed the mixture into it evenly, then covered it and put in in the fridge to try to get it to firm up.
The final bars came out very tasty. You can taste both nuts and the spices are excellent, but even after a night in the fridge it’s very, very sticky, and very sweet. I think the amount of dates could be reduced a bit. Derek absolutely loves them though. He says they taste way better than any lara bar he’s ever had. I haven’t had a chance yet to see how this recipe compares to the lara-esque bars I’ve been buying here in terms of calories or cost, but a lara bar is around 47g, and this recipe made about 7 or 8 bars I think. I believe the dates cost about 2 euros and the almonds about 75 cents. I’m not sure how much the pecans cost since I got them in the States a long time ago. But clearly this recipe didn’t come to anywhere near 14 – 16 euros! That said, I didn’t buy organic ingredients. It’s unclear to me how critical it is to buy dates and nuts organic. Does anyone know? Another problem is that it’s way easier to eat more than 47g at a sitting. I think it’s critical to cut them into squares to make portion control easier.
The second recipe I tried was these coconut cranberry bars from the Beard and Bonnet gluten-free blog:
- ½ cup almonds (73g)
- ½ cup cashews (72g)
- 1 cup dates [I used 156g pretty dry dates]
- ½ cup dried cranberries [I used 50g]
- 1 cup shredded coconut [I used 1/2 cup, but forgot to weight it]
- 2 Tbsp. coconut oil [I omitted this]
- pinch of salt [not in original recipe]
- dash of vanilla [not in original recipe]
This time my dried fruit was quite dry and hard, so I soaked the dates and cranberries in warm water until softened, then let them air dry so that they were moist but not actually wet. (The soaking water ended up very sweet. Derek drank it happily.) This time I didn’t grind my nuts so finely and I only pulsed the dried fruit for a few seconds, then added the shredded coconut. I omitted the coconut oil because it seemed like it would make the bars greasy, and there was already plenty of fat from the nuts and shredded coconut. The mixture this time didn’t form a ball, I’m not sure why. The texture has little bits of minced nuts and the coconut strands, and is much drier and less sticky than the other recipe. It’s also much less sweet tasting. I miss the spices though. I wanted to add some but I had Derek taste it and he said he thought it tasted really well as it was, so I left it. After a night in the refrigerator, however, Derek said he didn’t like it that much. I think it’s very tasty, although still missing some spices perhaps.