Gluten Free Date Squares

When you attend those holiday parties are you a cookie or a square kind of person? What is the first thing you try to find on the table full of goodies? I honestly look for a vegetable platter first (I know, boring). If there are no veggies then I must see if there are date squares on there.

Date squares always remind me of church gatherings, grandmothers and knitted cozies. I don’t know why they remind me of grandmothers and knitted cozies because my grandmother never made date squares or knitted anything really. But I do remember the very first time I had a date square as a child. It was in a church gym after some Christmas concert – the details of the concert obviously not memorable – but the date squares were. So soft and chewy, but not too sweet. I remember my mother saying something to the effect of  ‘Ewwww, you liked the date squares?’ as we were leaving the church. ‘Yes!’ I responded ‘Can you make some?’ That was wishful thinking because my mother only baked one thing during the holidays. Cookies. She was just too busy to bake other things.

One of my mother-in-laws makes the most amazing date squares (or as she calls it ‘Matrimonial Cake’). Every time I am at her house for the holidays I eat several pieces of these squares. I know they are old-fashioned but I love them! So, this is my (first) attempt at making a gluten-free version with no refined sugar and cutting the fat. They turned out great but I will warn you they are a little more crumbly then the traditional recipe. I used coconut oil in replace of the butter. I heard a really interesting point about coconut oil on Dr. Oz  (guilty) the other day. When you eat traditional butter, your body takes all of it and converts it to fat within your body. However, when you eat coconut oil, your body only converts a third of it into fat within the body! So you can feel a little less guilty about eating this version of date squares. I hope you enjoy these old-fashioned squares as much as I did!

This recipe was recently revamped and updated to work much better! You can check it out here. Happy gluten-free, vegan baking!


Gluten Free Date Squares
 
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup dates, pitted & diced
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch of sea salt
  • zest of ½ lemon, juice of 1 whole lemon
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup of walnuts, blended in food processor until crumbly
  • 1¾ cup quick oats (gluten free)
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp xantan gum
  • ½ tsp baking soda
Instructions
  1. Combine the dates, water, sea salt lemon zest and juice in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Heat for about 10 mins until soft and paste-like. Set aside in bowl and let cool before using.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine coconut oil, walnuts, brown rice flour, oats, maple syrup xantan gum & baking soda to make the crumb.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Line an 8" x 8" pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with some coconut oil. Take ⅔ of the crumb mixture and press into pan. Layer on the cooled date paste. Cover with remaining crumb mixture.
  5. Bake in oven for 35-45 mins. Let cool before cutting into squares.

What about you? Do you go for the cookie at the table or the square?

 

Go-For-It Energy Bar

Something that I began to do in the last few years is run. I would never call myself athletic. I grew up in a household full of musicians. Not to say that musicians are not athletic, but as a child, the extent of my organized sports was t-ball until the age of 11 and that was it. I always wanted to be more athletic and involved in sports, but I was so busy with arts extra-curricular that there was not time for anything else. By the time I was in high school, I would get serious chest pains trying to run in gym class and become short of breath, so I dropped it as soon as I could. I used to make jokes like “I’d rather be fat and speak French” as an excuse to not take it. WOW has that mentality changed!

Through my teens and twenties I took to gentle yoga classes. It was something I would do with my siblings who were no longer at home. A great way for us to connect once a week and catch up on all the drama that was happening at home or at school. I really started to get into weight lifting and cardio when I met my now husband. We would go to the gym 5 to 6 times a week and I felt great working out and building my muscles. Then I got cancer. I lost all my muscle, stamina and endurance. It took a while to build that muscle back. The endurance was another thing (chemo is not the best for your heart, as you can imagine). For the longest time I had barely enough energy to even go for a long walk. But, little by little I started to build up my endurance again for basic daily tasks.

I am still working on building my endurance for running. Now that I live in Vancouver, I can run all year round, which means I have no excuse. I have never been able to run for an hour straight, so I roll with the interval running (run for a 3-5 minutes, walk for 1-2 minutes) and pay attention to my heart while I am doing it. I am trying to build my endurance for a very important 10K run. The Terry Fox Run on September 16! This year I will be pushing the stroller with my 30lbs two year old in it, so it requires even more endurance! As many of you know, this is an organization that I support for several reasons. The funds raised go towards all types of cancers – because honestly, every kind of cancer sucks and needs a cure! Also, I know exactly how the money it split up (84¢ of ever $1 goes towards research).  This year you will see me in my red shirt, because I have joined Terry’s Team of survivors for the run. To keep my energy and endurance up, I’ve created the most addictive vegan, gluten-free energy bar.

This energy bar is sweet without sugar, naturally chewy and the best part is the random tastes of sea salt. I insist that you use coarse sea salt for this recipe. Doesn’t have to be the fancy kind that costs you a fortune. Also, I have introduced a new ingredient this week. You are all familiar with the chia (chee-a) seeds from my past recipes, which are full of omegas and help cleanse toxins from your body. Chia seeds have a nick-name of “the runner’s seed”, because they are one of nature’s highest plant sources of complete protein – so they keep your energy levels up longer. But the new ingredient that is optional for this recipe is maca (ma-ka) powder. Now, this powder is one that you can find at health food stores, but it is going to cost more then what you think. However, a little goes a long way. Maca has been shown to help regulate stress hormones in the body, increase circulation, energy levels and stamina. With or without the maca powder, these bars are totally addictive and still give you plenty of energy. Perfect for after a run, or pair it with some fruit for a morning breakfast. Word from the wise, do not eat this in the late afternoon or evening (no matter how good it tastes) or you will find yourself wide awake through the wee hours of the night!

This year I am proudly supporting The Terry Fox Foundation in its ongoing work to fund innovative and progressive cancer research programs. You can help support me by making a secure online donation using your credit card, or through Paypal. Please click on the link below:

http://my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?SID=3447479&langPref=en-CA

For more information on how you can participate in The Terry Fox Run, or for more information about The Terry Fox Foundation, please visit www.terryfox.org.

Go-For-It Energy Bar
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • ¾ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup gluten free rolled oats
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 2½ cups dates
  • 3 tbsp pure almond butter (that means no added salt or sugar)
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
Instructions
  1. In a powerful blender, blend almonds, pumpkin seed & rolled oats until becomes flour like texture. Set aside in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add chia seeds, cacao powder and hemp hearts and stir. This is now your "flour".
  2. Put dates in blender and blend until they become a paste. Add to your "flour". Add the remaining almond butter, coconut oil, maca powder and coarse sea salt. Mix well together.
  3. Press in 8"x8" glass pan. Cover and freeze. Allow to defrost 10mins before cutting yourself a bar to go.