I've come to the conclusion that pecans and dried fruit are simply meant to be eaten together. Savored by the handful, baked into a pie or chilled in a festive pudding-- the sweet pair is flawlessly delicious (and nutritious) almost every time. Add some shredded coconut, oats, pastured butter and a hint of vanilla to the mix, and you will find yourself with a batch of these sumptuous Pecan Fig Bars. Think Fig Newton Cookies with all real food ingredients and adult sophistication. Open up your cabinets and get ready to enjoy the ultimate nutrient dense snack bar.
Growing up I loved Fig Newton cookies. I remember scampering home from school to throw off my back pack in a hurry, open the cabinet, and reach for the crinkly yellow packaging. Diving in, I would select several cookies to build a crooked stack on my plate and then devour them gleefully, one by one. I relished in the taste and tradition of it all, and eventually grew to appreciate the idea that my selection was actually a "healthy cookie"--- or so the advertisements said.
What I didn't realize then, was that my beloved afterschool snack was not really healthy at all. High fructose corn syrup, genetically modified soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (that's a trans fat by the way) and harmful preservatives like sodium benzoate continue to be listed as major ingredients in this "low-fat" "fruit-filled" cookie. What I had always thought to be an easy and tasty treat, is in fact a highly processed junk food that is essentially manufactured to addict.
Enter this real food version. Instead of dismaying and swearing off fig bars forever, I have learned how to make my own variation of this dessert. And though I may not have them everyday like I used to, I do make a batch of these bars every so often to savor and share.
You basically use ingredients like this:
To get this:
What's not to love?
For this particular recipe I used dried figs to make the filling. Don't get me wrong, fresh figs are delicious, but they are expensive and hard to come by at certain times of the year. If you are having a hard time finding even dried figs at the store, medjool dates also work wonderfully in these bars. I also want to point out two notes on my personal ingredient choices for the recipe:
*Oats: I prefer to soak and then dehydrate oats prior to using them in order to minimize the anti-nutrients that they naturally contain and make them overall much easier on the digestive tract. I wrote an entire blog post about how and why to prepare oats traditionally, if you are curious about this process and think you might want to try it.
*Nuts: I also soak and dehydrate nuts before eating them (gosh, I must be in the kitchen a lot!). You can find an article and chart about how and why to soak nuts and seeds on the blog too that explains this in a bit more detail. Alternatively, you can purchase soaked and sprouted nuts (like these) at the store. Although I used pecans in this version, you are certainly not limited as to nut type. Walnuts, almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts also make fantastic choices.
Pecan Fig Bars
2 cups dried figs (medjool dates are also a very tasty alternative)
1 cup water (filtered of course!)
3/4 cup pecans, *see note about nuts above
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats, *see note about oats above
4 tablespoons grass-fed butter or virgin coconut oil, chilled
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
If desired, prepare oats and nuts ahead of time by soaking overnight. See above instructions.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat dried fruit and 1 cup of water in a covered saucepan over high heat. Once you have reached a boil, reduce and simmer until figs are soft- just about 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from burner and set aside to let cool.
In the meantime, place pecans, coconut and 1/2 cup of rolled oats in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add remaining oats and repeat. The mixture should have a mealy texture at this point.
Add chilled butter (or coconut oil) into the food processor, and pulse until combined. You want to be sure that butter is evenly distributed, but stop before the mixture becomes creamy and/or sticky. If you process for too long, you will end up with a strange nut butter instead of the base for a crust.
Grease an 8x8 baking dish with butter or coconut oil. Press about 3/4 of the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan. Transfer the remaining mixture into a separate dish.
Return to the food processor, this time adding figs with water and vanilla. Process until smooth. Using a spatula- pour resulting paste into the prepared pan over the oat and nut mixture. Crumble the remaining crust mixture over figs.
Bake in the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes or until top begins to brown. Enjoy!