Healthy Coconut Date Bars

My husband, son, and I just got back from Palm Desert, California. It was our first time in California and third time in a desert. We learned some interesting facts about the desert there that made us appreciate the place even more now. Many people think of a desert as being hot and dry but Palm Desert is actually quite wet. There is water underneath the soil. A lot of it but it's pretty deep underground. We were told you could pretty much plant anything and it will grow. In some places in the desert you can actually press down on the ground and you will actually see bubbles come up. Fascinating!

The weekend we arrived, we visited the street fair down at the college, moments after first learning about it. I was so glad we did. It was huge! There were crafts, art, furniture, food stands, farmer's market, and pretty much everything you could expect at a craft and food market. When we got to the food stands, we noticed tables and tables of nuts and dried fruit, especially dates. When they told us that the dates were from the region in the Coachella Valley, we had to buy some. Local is best! The dates were so fresh and soft. They sort of just melt in your mouth. My husband is a big fan of dates. We actually have a large supply at home already but these looked better :) Also, we paid way more for them back home. At the street fair, they were charging just $3/lb. That's a good deal!

Weekend street fair at the college in Palm Desert, CA.

During our stay in Palm Desert, our resort had a host of activities for us. When they offered their date tasting class, I signed us all up. This one was complimentary and since we all liked dates, it was a pretty easy decision to go. We watched a video on how dates came to California and what takes place in growing them. It's actually a lot of work to grow dates. No wonder they are expensive. After the video, we got to try 6 (or 7?) different kinds of dates. The Royal Medjool is probably the most famous one and it's actually one of the two I preferred at the tasting. My 4 year old picked them all as his favorites. Of course :)

Needless to say, we now have too many dates at home. I'm getting a bit sick of eating them as well so I have now resorted to baking. I actually like traditional date bars but they seemed a bit boring. Then I came across a blackberry bar recipe that uses coconut oil and I was inspired :) Coconut and dates? Yes, please! As an extra bonus, it's vegan as well :) My dear husband is going to love me a little more today.

Can you tell I put it by the window? :)

Healthy Coconut Date Bars
Makes 20 medium bars
(Inspired by yummy mummy kitchen)

2 cups pitted Royal Medjool dates (about 12-14 dates)
1/2 to 2/3 cups hot water
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup quick oats
1 cup solid coconut oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup vanilla sugar (or plain sugar)

Soak the dates in the hot water. After about 5 minutes, mash them a bit with a fork. Mix together the flour, oats, coconut oil, agave syrup, and salt until it resembles crumbs. Press at least half of this at the bottom of a brownie pan. Spread the mashed dates over top. Pour the remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan about half way.

When it's done, let it cool before cutting into it. Sprinkle over 1/4 cup vanilla sugar. Cut into bars and enjoy!


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