Vegan Chocolate Cranberry Date Bars

I'm a planner by nature (in case you couldn’t tell) so it's no surprise that one of my favorite ways to set myself up for a healthy week is to prep healthy snacks and meals for the week ahead. We will get into this more tomorrow, but I think that planning and preparation are some of the key things that can help you stick to weight loss and healthy eating goals.  It's difficult to make food for your entire day between work, workouts, and Netflix episodes marathons (let's be honest) so having something healthy that you can quickly grab is incredibly helpful. _12757_320edit1

I like to try something new every once awhile so this week, I decided to make some energy bars.  The husband and I both love Larabars so I set out to make a DIY version of our favorite snack bar. These chocolate cranberry date bars, which are similar to these energy truffles, are a great under 200 calorie snack to have pre or post-workout or when you need a quick snack. They are packed with good stuff like dates and walnuts and definitely taste like a treat.  They have a texture and taste similar to a Larabar, only they don't cost $2-$3 a bar. Healthy, quick, and cheap? That's my kind of snack.

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Chocolate Cranberry Date Bars Inspired by: Elana's Pantry and my energy truffles Yields: 15-16 bars 15 medjool dates, pitted 2 cups walnuts 1/2 cup dried unsweetened cranberries 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder 1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional but it is really tasty) 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon pinch of fine sea salt

1.  Add walnuts to food processor and process until you have medium sized crumbs.  Don't process too long! 2. Remove walnuts from food processor and set aside. 3. Add dates to processor and process until you have small, sticky chunks. 4. Add cranberries and pulse a few times to combine with the dates. 5. Add walnuts to date mixture and pulse to incorporate. 6. Add cocoa powder, almond extract, cinnamon, and salt and process until the mixture forms a ball. 7. Press mixture into an 8 x 8 pan lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper.  If you don't have a 8x8 pan, use a large casserole dish and simply form the mixture into an approximate 8x8 square with your hands. 8. Freeze for an hour, or until firm.  Then simply cut into bars and store either in the fridge or freezer. If you're taking them to go, simply put in a bag or wrap in parchment paper to keep them from getting too sticky!