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Friday, July 17, 2015

Homemade fruit and nut breakfast or snack bars

So, you know I've been making healthy snack-y items for my family to take with them in the mornings, with special thought to my 2 daughters working housekeeping jobs this summer. Here's another recipe I've made this past week. It's another one of those recipes that has been around for a while.

This is a no-sugar added recipe, which can be varied by types of dried fruit and nuts, and added spices. They get their sweetness completely from dried fruit. More like a healthier cookie, as opposed to a healthier candy bar. We use these as breakfast bars. I wrap them, to-go, in a simple wrap of waxed paper, secured by string, rubber bands or stickers.

These cake-like fruit and nut bars are nutrient-dense, rich in fiber, minerals and anti-oxidants, and are made with all natural ingredients. They also have a fair amount of protein (compared to a commercial granola bar), about 3.5 grams, from the eggs and nuts. Paired with a container of homemade yogurt, this is a substantial breakfast, even for my kids who are working physical jobs this summer. Myself, one of these with my morning coffee is all I need.

I cut the pan of bars into 12 pieces, each having about 200 calories. The pan could also be cut into 24 pieces, for a healthy, after-school/activity snack of about 100 calories each.

So, here's the recipe:

Fruit and Nut Breakfast Bars

1/2 cup chopped, pitted prunes (measure after chopping)
1/2 cup chopped, pitted dates (measure after chopping)
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans are favorites -- I've used unsalted, dry-roasted almonds, here, measured after chopping)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour

In a small saucepan, bring water and dried fruits to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter. Allow to cool, and butter to melt thoroughly.

Butter an 8 X 11-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, salt and nuts. Stir in cooled fruit and butter mixture. Mix in flour and baking soda. Spread evenly in prepared baking dish.

Bake at 325, for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden all over, and top is springy.  Allow to cool completely in the pan before cutting and removing.

Wrap individual bars in waxed paper or parchment paper, for easy grab and go breakfasts. Store in covered tin or plastic container, in the fridge for up to a week.

This basic recipe can be mixed up by using dried apple slices, chopped, raisins and dates, plus walnuts and a pinch of cinnamon, for a autumnal breakfast bar. Or, chopped dried apricots, dates and dried cherries, plus pecans. Or, a dried berry medley of blueberries, cranberries, cherries, and blackberries, with chopped almonds. Most of the time, I think the flavor is most appealing if some dates are used, as date sugar probably tastes most like cane sugar to me. Just make sure the amounts of dried fruits equal about 1  1/2 cups.

You can also dress these bars up with a drizzle or dip of melted white chocolate (really good on the apricot/cherry/date/pecan bar), or a drizzle of icing and sprinkle of cinnamon (especially yummy on an apple/date/raisin/cinnamon and walnut bar).


  1. These sound tasty. I seem to have problems with the cake-like bars holding up well and I tend to go more with the dense granola-bar style--how do these hold up when people are traveling from one location to another?

    1. Hi Kris,
      My kids put these, wrapped, but into hard containers, when packing in backpacks or bags for the day.

      I know what you mean about getting smushed or crumbled in transit, due to cake-like texture. In a past vacation, I was carrying a backpack full of snacks and drinks for the family, and we had a bunch of cereal bars in there. Well, they sifted to the bottom of the pack and were so smushed by the time we wanted to eat them, that everyone was pouring piles of crumbs into their palms to eat.

      These bars are thicker, and a bit more durable than thin cereal bars, however. I can send someone out the door with a bar in hand and they can eat it, without problem, while walking to a bus stop or in the car going someplace. But would become crushed in a backpack, without a hard container.

  2. I love fruitcakes which this recipe reminds me of. I don't have a single dried fruit or nut (almond, walnut or pecan) in my pantry, so I'm inspired by this recipe to start stocking up. The wrapped cakes look like little presents (which they are!!), great presentation as well. I never liked cooking much, and don't know what it is, but between having a bit more time, working fewer hours outside the home, cooking all my dad's meals (his diet is 100% soft foods which is different from ours), and trying to reduce our food budget in preparation for retirement fixed income, meal preparation is becoming my full time job (at least time wise we're in the kitchen most of the day) and thankfully so far I don't seem to mind it. I credit your blog for being my guiding light through this period :)


    1. Hi YHF,
      I was talking with a friend, yesterday, about retirement and cooking. It reminded me of you and your situation.

      She just retired in May and told me that she's having fun with cooking. Her husband, who's been retired for many years has done all of the cooking, up till now. So she thinks of all of the cooking she's doing now as a hobby of sorts. She likes the challenge of doing it well, and on a budget. Of course, like any daily activity, it could become a drag. But when it does, we can find ways to make it interesting again, or to give ourselves a break (as you've done by making ahead a bunch of bean patties, tortillas, etc).

      Anyway, just thought I'd share. I think many women will find themselves in a very similar situation, once retired.

    2. Thanks for this insight!! It's funny how entering retirement years is like starting a second life,,,new hobbies, for some maybe a new business or self employment, new goals, more education,, I guess my reason to begin cooking again is less that I'm interested in the art of cooking although I totally understand your friend who enjoys the challenge, I originally started my cooking project to reduce my dependency on stores for all my needs (as part of my budget reduction preparation for retirement). I am thinking "set it and forget it"...once I've figured out my simple living habits, I can focus on my real pleasure which is making arts and crafts lol Also in keeping with my shoestring budget plan, of course, the crating materials I currently use are mostly recycled stuff. The challenge is the same whether I am using fine couture materials or discards. I am collecting nicer yarns and other materials for when I have more time in the future. Hope that day comes!! Anyway, I don't envision myself making fancy expensive dishes like a foodist!! The least expensive (barely palatable) and nutritious the better.


  3. This looks like something I would like to try. Thanks!

    1. Hi Anne,
      I really enjoy these bars. Hope you do, too!

  4. Hi Lili,
    Thanks for the recipe - it sounds wonderful in all its variations. I'm looking forward to trying it!
    Jo Ann

    1. Hi Jo Ann,
      They are yummy -- and guilt-free! Enjoy them!

  5. Love the idea of stickers to seal the packages. There always seem to be stickers around and it could make it fun.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I wish I were more creative with the stickers. Sadly, the stickers I use are usually extra address labels that come free with a solicitation to donate money to a charity. So, nothing special, LOL!


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