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August 9, 2014

healthy fig bars.

At this point, I've tried almost every single flavor of Nature's Bakery fig bars. They're like a fancier fig newton. Although I dislike how the nutrition facts are for one bar vs. one package (contains 2 bars, which I find incredibly easy to devour), I just can't get enough of these bars.

In recent efforts to cut down on the amount of refined products I consume, I have been looking for snack options I can make myself. So the next time I was at the store, instead of buying a few more packs of these fig bars, I bought a pack of dried figs. After getting home I Googled around, and these are what I came up with.

The Nature's Bakery bars are difficult to duplicate. The whole wheat outside sheath is soft, yet firm enough to enclose the perfect amount of fig filling. It seems like the perfect healthy snack.

Yet, I knew I could make these healthier. Most recipes online included at least 1/2 stick butter and large amounts of sugar. While this makes for a softer dough that bakes up similar to that of Fig Newtons or Nature's Bakery Fig Bars, I didn't want that in what was supposed to be a healthy treat. 

So I took a basic recipe and adjusted it pretty heavily to my own preferences. These are some of the awesome things in this bar that will provide fiber, protein, and whole grains, to provide long-lasting energy and sufficiently satiate hunger.
  • Quick-cooking oats -- I don't like the texture of oatmeal in bars, so I dry-toasted the oats on a pan and ground them, not completely to a fine powder, in order to leave some texture.
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Orange juice -- to rehydrate the figs
  • Sweet potato -- hear me out! While blending the figs to make a paste, I added in some sweet potato. It had no impact on the color of the filling, the flavor, or anything except the nutrition, by adding beta-carotene, vit A and C, fiber, and antioxidants
  • Coconut oil - optional. Some fat is necessary, even if to better absorb some of the other nutrients in the bars. Coconut oil is a healthier alternative to butter.
STRONGLY recommend wrapping right after they cool, then storing in the fridge. Turn out moister.

Healthy Fig Bars
I made em up! I think the coconut oil + oats combo makes them turn out crispy - the texture was almost reminiscent of Nature Valley bars (not the fig bars). Also, these are excellent after being wrapped immediately after cool & stored in the fridge.
  • 8 oz dried figs, stems removed and chopped 
  • 1/2 orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sweet potato (no need to mash)
  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (optional: dry toast for 5-10 mins on a pan)
  • 2 Tablespoons pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • scant 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup melted butter (I used half coconut oil, half butter)
  • 1 egg white
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine figs and orange juice in a medium pot over low-medium heat. Juice will start to boil. Turn off heat once figs are completely rehydrated and no juice remains. Cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, roughly grind the oats and pumpkin seeds. Combine with flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix with hands, breaking up brown sugar clumps as you go.
  4. Incorporate melted oil/butter and egg white into the dry mixture.
  5. The fig mixture is most likely cool by now. Blend in food processor with sweet potato till mostly smooth. 
  6. Grease a 8-inch square baking pan. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the pan with hands, packing evenly to make a crust. Spread the fig mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the fig paste, packing in somewhat tightly with hands to form a solid top crust.
  7. Bake 20 - 25 minutes, until browned. Let cool 15-20 minutes before gently cutting into bars. Before separating the bars, let cool completely. Wrap individual bars in plastic wrap for a quick portable snack. 

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