Cacao, Date & Nut Bars with Sea Salted Coconut & Cacao Ganache

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These bars are nutritional powerhouses – full of antioxidants, minerals, fiber, protein, healthy fats and raw chocolate! Plus they’re free of gluten, dairy, soy and eggs, and sweetened with dried fruit and just a touch of raw honey. I could start listing their many uses…but I think you should make them instead and then tell me your favorite time of day to eat them. I also think you should play around with different combinations of nuts, and you can change the texture by pureeing the mixture more or less. I’ve made these with a mix of toasted almonds & hazelnuts (which makes them taste like nutella), and also with a mix of raw almonds and brazil nuts (which are super high in selenium, a trace mineral that can boost metabolism.) I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

But First, What is Cacao?

Chocolate as we know it comes from cacao beans found inside the fruit of the cacao tree. The conventional chocolate process then roasts these beans at high temperature which changes the molecular structure of the cocoa bean; reducing the enzyme content and lowering the overall nutritional value (then sugar, soy lecithin and sometimes even other oils are added to make the creamy chocolate bars we love so much.) Cacao nibs are cacao beans that have been peeled and chopped up, and cacao powder is made by cold-pressing the un-roasted cocoa beans thus maintaining the living enzymes. Cacao is an amazing superfood – and any reason to eat more chocolate is always a good idea!

Recipe: Cacao, Date & Nut Bars with Sea Salted Coconut & Cacao Ganache

Makes 16 bars

For the Bars:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 c almonds – raw or toasted

1 1/2 c brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, or pecans – raw or toasted

2 c dried dates and figs, soaked in warm water & drained, liquid reserved

1/2 c cacao

1/3 c cocoa nibs

1 tsp fine sea salt

Directions:

If toasting your nuts, heat oven to 350°, place your nuts on a sheet tray and bake for 5-10 minutes until golden and fragrant. Let cool completely before putting into the food processor, otherwise you will make nut butter! Also, if you’re using hazelnuts you’ll need to remove the brown skins from the nuts after toasting them. Rubbing the nuts in a dish towel and letting the skin fall away works well.

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Line an 8”x8” pan with parchment paper, allowing the ends to hang over the sides of the pan. Set Aside.

In food processor, combine nuts & dried fruit. Pulse until a paste begins to form but the nuts are still chunky.

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Add the cacao, salt and 1/4 c of the reserved  soaking liquid. Pulse until well combined. If the mixture is still too dry and crumbly add more liquid a little at a time. Pour into a bowl and stir in the cacao nibs. Press the mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate while you make the ganache.

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For the Coconut & Cacao Glaze:

Ingredients:

1/3 c cacao powder

1/4 c coconut oil,  melted

3 TBSP raw honey

Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

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Directions:

Melt the coconut oil, then add the cacao powder and honey. Wisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the bars and refrigerate for 10 minutes until the ganache starts to harden. Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top of the ganache, then place the bars back into the refrigerator for another hour until hardened. Cut into 16 squares.

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Bars can be kept at room temperature or refrigerated for 2-3 weeks (like they’re really going to last that long!)

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