Baking for me is so nostalgic. It always brings back memories of spending quality time with my grandma 'helping' in the kitchen. And by helping, I mean licking a LOT of mixing beaters. Date squares were one treat that my grandma always had around when we'd come to visit. It's funny how the smell of something baking in the oven can trigger memories of people and moments in time.
Nowadays, I love to make over old family favourites with some simple, healthy updates. The base ingredients of these are actually pretty healthy, nutritionally rich dates and whole grain, high fibre oats. I've reduced the sugar and butter and added hemp hearts for some extra crunch. Hemp heartsare high in protein and omega 3s. All that added goodness makes for a great on the go snack or even breakfast.
These are perfect to make ahead at the start of your week, they also freeze well cut up into individual squares.
Grandma's Oatmeal Date Bars:
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) pitted dates, chopped
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
For the crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
1/2 cup grass fed butter
1 1/2 cups rolled oats, I used old fashion but you can use quick cooking
3/4 cup whole wheat flour, or a wholegrain flour mix of your choice
1/4 cup hemp hearts or flax seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Either grease bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch pan or line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan, combine dates, water and zest over low heat, simmering for 5 to 10 minutes, until liquid has absorbed and mixture has thickened. Set aside while you make the crumbs.
In a large bowl, mix the sugars and butters together. Add the oats, flour, spices, baking soda and salt and stir to combine; the mixture should form a coarse rubble.
Press half into the bottom of your prepared pan. Dollop the date mixture over it and use a small offset spatula (or whatever you have on hand) to spread the mixture smoothly over the crumbs. Don’t worry if the crumbs move around a littleunderneath; these bars don’t require perfection. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over date layer and press lightly to cover.
Bake bars for 25 minutes, or until light brown at the edges. Cool in pan. Cut into squares. They’ll keep just fine at room temperature but will last up to a week in the fridge and longer in the freezer.
Makes approx. 12 bars.