It’s the holidays. You know you’re likely to over-indulge and be naughty…but when you eat these chocolate-y cherry walnut squares, you can be guilt-free!
It’s the holiday season – that time of year when it can feel like every day is full of foodie temptation, whether it’s a glass of egg nog, a few afternoon cookies, or an office party buffet (or all three!). Even when it isn’t the holidays, I like to have something on hand for a treat. When I first discovered these tasty frozen treats, I made sure that I always had some in the freezer. Other delicious treats have distracted me for a while, but recently I’ve been hankering for the slightly sweet, dense, chocolate-y yumminess of these squares.
These cherry walnut squares are a delicious and healthy offering to take to a pot-luck gathering. If need be, pop them into the freezer for a few minutes when you get to the host’s house. All you’ll need is a tiny bit of freezer space. The squares also make a great treat for that friend of yours who desperately wants to eat healthier but has a sweet tooth that just won’t quit.
The sweetness comes from the yummy date and banana mixture
No need to feel guilty when you indulge in one of these low-calorie tasty treats! They provide you with omega 3 fats, and good soluble fiber from oats. The cherries provide you with anthocyanins, antioxidants, and melatonin to help with your sleep/circadian rhythm. (See Ruth’s other posts: Melatonin and cancer and Timing matters for melatonin & chemotherapy for more information about melatonin). The sweetness comes from dates and banana rather than refined sugar. And it’s all topped off with a little drizzle of good quality chocolate. Healthy decadence!
1 1/2 cups old fashioned/rolled oats (I used gluten free)
2 cups walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup dates, pitted
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cherries (I used Montmorency cherries)
1 ounce dark chocolate (use at least 70% cocoa chocolate)
In a blender or processor, blend the oats until they look like flour. Empty into a mixing bowl.
Repeat with the walnuts, and process them until they look like breadcrumbs. Be careful not to over-process them or they will start to release their oils and turn into nut butter. Add to the bowl with the oat flour.
Stir in the cinnamon.
Put the dates and water into a high speed blender and process until it forms a slurry.
Add the banana and continue to blend until smooth and no large pieces of dates are evident.
Add the date mixture to the oats and walnuts and mix well. Stir in the vanilla and cherries.
Line an 8 inch square cake pan with foil or parchment - with overhang so you can easily pull the whole thing out. Put the dough into the pan and spread evenly. Smooth the top by using a knife or back of a spoon, dipped in water.
Place in the freezer for approximately 30 minutes.
Break the chocolate into pieces, and place them in a small bowl. Pour hot water into a larger bowl, and set the small bowl inside it to melt the chocolate. Take care not to get water into the chocolate. If you need to replenish the hot water, remove the small bowl first, replace the water, then replace the small bowl.
Remove the dough from the freezer after 30 minutes or so. It will be firm, but still workable. Grip the edges of the parchment paper and lift out the block of dough, setting it onto a cutting board. Cut the block into 36 small squares (you can cut fewer pieces if you like, but you'll find just one small square quite satisfying). Don't lift them off the parchment - keep them in place.
Dip a small spoon into the chocolate to check it for runniness. When the chocolate has fully melted and is quite runny, use the spoon to drizzle it in diagonal lines across the block of the dough. (I was scared the first time I tried this - I kept thinking, “I’m not Martha Stewart! I can’t do this!” but it was surprisingly easy. And even if you end up with big drips of chocolate rather than thin lines, it doesn't matter because they still taste great!)
Return to the freezer, wrapped in the parchment or place in a container and store in the freezer, for a guilt free snack.
For its richer flavor and potential health benefits, use natural vanilla extract rather than artificial.
If you really care about the chocolate drizzles being nice and even (rather than having the occasional blob), there are two things that can help: i) make sure the chocolate is absolutely melted and runny before you start drizzling, and ii) the blobs tend to happen at the beginning of a drizzling "swipe," so start your drizzle motion beyond the edge of the block of dough so that the blob will land on the cutting board.
Although these squares stay in the freezer, they don’t get too hard so you don’t have to wait for them to thaw unless you want to.
The recipe is flexible; you can use a mixture of walnuts and almonds if you prefer.
You can use goji berries or other dried fruits that you have on hand.
What’s good about this recipe
If you use only walnuts, you’ll get a higher ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats.
Cinnamon can help lessen the impact of high carb foods on your blood sugar levels and is a great source of manganese, fiber, and calcium.
Natural vanilla extract has anti-inflammatory properties, and contains numerous antioxidants.
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