Better-for-You Nut and Fruit Bars

One young mom I know with three wiggly, energetic, and always-hungry kids aged six and under, never sets out in the family car without packing snacks. Sometimes a couple apples cored and cut up, some almonds, cheesy little crackers, plain popcorn—usually some sort of low-fat, low-salt, short on sugar and as relatively wholesome as she can manage without fomenting a “yuck, mom, that’s gross” sort of rebellion.  Fortunately, the youngsters have not been indulged in candy-flavored breakfast cereal or the kind of granola bars that resemble cookies more than granola. I bet they’d like these wicked wholesome ground fruit and nut bars that my sister Sally out in Somerville has happened upon and makes for herself.

I whipped out a batch in jig time – it is all done in the food processor, just assembled, not cooked. You do need to have the kind of kitchen pantry supply that contains almonds, dates, dried cranberries or cherries, pecans, as well as chocolate chips.

When you chop the almonds, avoid ending up with almond meal by pulsing. I sifted out the last few larger chunks and finished by hand-chopping them.

There may be a certain level of tinker-ability with this recipe: more pecans than almonds, for instance. The dates have just the right amount of sweetness and their sticky texture is an asset. I used dried cranberries, but raisins or dried cherries would work. You could leave out the chocolate but I don’t know why you would.

You can form these into bars or balls. I patted out the dough about half an inch thick, squared up the corners, and sliced off bars which I wrapped in waxed paper and stashed in a cookie tin. They will probably find favor more with the grown-ups in my acquaintance than with the kiddies but I bet my friend the snack-packing mom will give them a try and her young ones will like them.

Better-for-You Nut and Fruit Bars
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • ⅔ cup pitted dates
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ⅓ cup raw pecan pieces
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate chips
  1. Using a food processor, finely chop the almonds.
  2. Add the dates and cranberries and process until the mixture begins to be sticky, and you can pinch some between your fingers and it forms a little ball.
  3. Add the pecans and chocolate chips and process until the mixture forms a ball of dough. If necessary, add a little water very gradually until the mixture comes together.
  4. Form into balls or pat out into a loaf shape about a half inch thick, and slice into bars.
  5. Makes 24 balls or 10-12 three-by-one-inch bars.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.