In a chat with my friend Abigail the other day, she mentioned that she and her brother-in-law love these energy bar recipes, the Figgy Fuel Bar and the Cherry Power Bar in particular. I haven’t tried them yet, but they are definitely on my short list.
Abigail also told me that in the process of making the bars, she found the best figs, dates, and golden raisins that she’s ever had in the United States at a place called Sunnyland Farms. I am not a dried fruit connoisseur, but Abigail comes from an Israeli family of excellent cooks. (As in, she never had canned soup at any point in her childhood, only homemade, and her mom’s February 2009 lemon bars remain one of my most memorable food experiences.) She travels to her parents’ home country regularly and even lived there herself for a couple of years, so I figure that when it comes to dates and figs, she knows what she’s talking about.
My husband likes the Sunnyland fruit so much that he said if we don’t want to make room for it it in our grocery budget, he will buy it out of his own fun money, which puts it in the same tier as the Comcast package of sports channels and XM radio. So, you know, that speaks pretty highly of it too. :) I haven’t been bowled over completely by this fruit yet, but must tell you that the golden raisins are huge and truly taste like dried green grapes, the dates are creamy and sweet, and the figs have delicious floral notes. I wish they were organic, but hey, you can’t win them all.
Sunnyland Farms also must be the friendliest company I have ever interacted with. They seem to strive for a connection with their customers, genuinely care whether or not you are completely satisfied, and want you to know how much they appreciate your business. Their catalog is charming, written almost like a letter between friends with personal touches and stories on every single page. Sunnyland appears to be an old-fashioned, family-owned, locally-oriented business in the heart of Georgia’s pecan country. One very helpful hint if you might order from them: if you do not want 3 lbs. of one type of fruit, be sure to click on “Do It Yourself Bags” in the menu on the left side of your screen. That allows you to mix and match smaller 1 lb. portions of different products.
So, our raisins, dates, and figs arrived last week, and I began scrawling notes of possibilities for them. I hope you’re not tired of these chickpea bars yet? I’m still happy having different versions of them as quick, ready-made breakfasts, and this new combination is fantastic: moist, sweet, chewy, and a perfect blend of fig, orange, and cherry flavors. It is amazing how those three goodies complement each other without any one of them stealing the show.
I’ll be back a little later in the week with a second take on these flavors, sort of a “Fig Cherry Walnut Orange Chickpea, Two Ways” post miniseries. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these as much as we are.
Fig Cherry Walnut Orange Chickpea Bars
(Adapted from Have Cake, Will Travel)
1 heaping Tbsp. + 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal, divided
1/4 cup orange juice, warmed
2 and 1/4 cups cooked chickpeas (drain and rinse if using canned)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup puffed brown rice cereal
1/2 cup raw walnuts or macadamias, chopped
3 dried Calimyrna figs (about 1/3 of a cup chopped)
1/4 cup dried cherries (my sister-in-law likes the organic, unsweetened ones from Bella Viva Orchards)
1/2 cup almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
3 and 1/2 tsp. orange zest (approximately 1 large orange)
generous sprinkle of finely ground sea salt (optional if your beans are already salted)
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Stir together the 1 tablespoon of ground flax and warm orange juice. Set it aside.
3. Toss the chickpeas with the sugar and 1 tsp. of the vanilla extract until the sugar and vanilla are evenly distributed. Put the beans in an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake for 16 minutes, stirring them well after the first 8 minutes.
4. When the chickpeas have finished baking, mash them with a potato masher. They do not have to be perfectly uniform mush, but you do want to break up all the whole beans, and turn most of them them into small, soft, flaky pieces similar to the texture of cookie dough.
5. In a big mixing bowl, stir together the chickpea mush, puffed rice cereal, 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal, oats, and fruit.
6. Add the almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, orange zest, other teaspoon of vanilla, and salt (if using) to the orange juice and tablespoon of flax. Stir until well-combined.
7. Add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl, and stir until everything is evenly combined. Taste, and add more salt if you’d like.
8. Give your chickpea baking dish a bit of a cleaning with a paper towel, and line it with parchment or wax paper. Pour the mixture in, and use another piece of parchment or wax paper to press it down evenly into a dense square.
9. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before slicing. Store in the fridge. Will keep one week.
Makes 12 big, thick bars, or at least 24 smaller squares. You can also cut them smaller, into bite-size pieces, or probably roll the dough into bite-size balls as well.