Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Coconut Apricot Bars

       On their own, these tasty Coconut Apricot Bars are a great breakfast or snack option. They are not too sweet but with the addition of a scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream on top or a sprinkle of icing sugar, these bars also make an excellent dessert. 

       The base of the bar has heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6's from the flax as well as fiber from the whole wheat flour. The topping is filled with chopped apricots, almonds and pecans, as well as a coconut caramel-like sauce. These coconut apricot bars are a healthy alternative to traditional "Magic Bars". Just as tasty, but use a lot less sugar and use better fats. Saturated fat from coconut products contains short chain fatty acids, which unlike their animal product competitors are not processed the same way and are less likely to clog up you arteries.       



Serves: 12 large dessert size bars (3"x3") or  24-36 medium-small bars


Ingredients

Base:
1/2 cup margarine
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground flax seed 
3 tbsp water
1/8 tsp ground ginger, heaping
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Coconut condensed milk:
1 can coconut milk
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed

Topping:
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 
1 cup dried chopped apricot*
1 cup chopped nuts, a combination of pecans and almonds or your favourite
2/3 cup Ritz crackers, about 12-15, chopped or lightly crushed*

optional: icing sugar or vanilla or coconut ice cream   




Preparation

1. Turn on the oven to 375°F and toast nuts for 8 minutes while the oven is preheating and lightly grease 13x9 inch pyrex pan. 
2.To make the base, beat margarine with brown sugar, ground flax seed, water, molasses and ginger and then mix in the flour. Pour into the greased pyrex pan and press with your fingers, bake for 10 minutes at 375°F. 
3. In a small sauce pan combine the entire can of coconut milk and the packed brown sugar. Simmer on medium-low heat for 12-14 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the condensing coconut milk doesn't boil over. If a thin film forms, whisk it back into the condensed coconut milk. Final product should be a medium thick milk of a light caramel colour.
4. Combine coconut, apricot, nuts and Ritz crackers in a bowl.
5. Pour 2/3  of the prepared coconut condensed milk on top of the baked base, this should cover the majority of the base.
6. Evenly distribute the coconut, fruit and nut mixture on top and drizzle remaining coconut milk mixture on top of this layer.
7. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes, the coconut milk should be golden brown around the edges.
8. Chill completely (~2h) before cutting.
9. Eat as is for a snack or for breakfast. If serving for dessert, add a scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream on top of a large square cut bar or dust a fine layer of icing sugar on top before serving.  

*if particularly dry, can be soaked in a bit of water for a couple of minutes
*if you like sweet and salty desserts, you can use Ritz original, otherwise use low sodium Ritz crackers