Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Raisin Date Bars

July 21st was my birthday, so I feel a bit remiss as a food blogger that I didn't post a birthday cake during the month of July. The truth is, I didn't have a party. While I love to bake for others, when it's just me, little else can top a candle stuck in the middle of a jar of some kind of nut butter or some very rich cheese.  So I didn't bake on my birthday.

The truth is, this was one of those 'hard birthdays,' for some reason.  No, my birthday didn't end in a zero. But for some reason, the great milestone birthdays have never bothered me as much.  Twelve was bad. Nineteen was an unpleasant number. So was twenty-six.

I have strange, subjective associations with numbers that I blame from reading too much and not doing enough real math. So turning some numbers bother me, because they seem to signify a break with the past.

I guess I twelve, you know you are no longer a winsome child and even wonder if you should still be reading children's books, while a ten-year-old can still be classified as charmingly precocious. A fifteen-year-old heroine was always youthful and fresh-faced, and anything could happen to her.  Sixteen is an exciting age for many heroines, too.  But by age nineteen, you know that you should start being responsible enough to do your laundry once a week and stop avoiding taking early morning classes because you don't want to get out of bed.

I talked to a woman who recently turned thirty and was upset because she said: "this is SO not where I want to be in my life."  But once you creep away from thirty, it no longer your failure to become a bright young talent that haunts you and more of a sense that it's all going too fast.

I'm very fortunate to have found certain pursuits in my life like riding, running, and yoga, in which I can still be a student and hopefully see myself 'moving forward' in a positive way, rather than always wanting to hold time back. I'm fitter and more attractive than I was in my twenties and as for wiser, I really don't believe people ever grow wise.  The 'truth' of a ten-year-old, that it's catastrophic when your teacher hates you and you have to wear a sweater over your Halloween costume is no less true than the truth of a thirty-two-year-old who is crestfallen she hasn't written The Great American Novel yet.

However, I have noticed this year that, in terms of pushing time forward stores are ALREADY putting back-to-school stuff on display.  Even though I loved shopping for back-to-school supplies (some years it was my favorite part of the entire school year) I know I would have been devastated at the sight--back-to-school around the time of my BIRTHDAY?  July, I thought, was my month...and I only grudgingly admitted, the birthday of the country.

However, given the back-to-school rush, I thought I would share this great lunchbox or after-school treat with all of you.  I made them for a vegan friend of mine, so I used flaxseed rather than an egg, but you could also use an egg to whip them up quickly.  They are low in fat and are homey without being decadent. Make them for your kid's lunchbox or your own lunchbox and screw those stupid school supply lists they send home and buy your kid the glittery erasers and the notebook with the pony on it, rather than plain ones you're supposed to buy.  You are only young once.

Raisin Date Bars (Vegan, low fat)


3/4 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 orange herbal tea, your favorite spicy tea OR just hot water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flaxseed plus three tablespoons of the hot water or tea OR 1 large, beaten egg

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tespoon salt
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar


1. Grease and line a square 8X8 pan with parchment. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Pour hot tea or water onto dates and raisins.  Let cool.  Add oil and flaxseed mixture or egg.

3. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, dark brown sugar, and cinnamon sugar together.

4. Incorporate wet and dry mixtures.  Pour into pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick can be extracted clean.


  1. I have always had a love/hate with birthdays, though the number rarely has signficiance for me. I was a kid who always had a much older personality than my peers. I hated teenagers as a teenager, I thought university/college behaviour was ridiculous.. etc. Turning thirty was more of a "crap thirty" moment then anything, but since nothing around me had changed it wasn't a big deal. 31 (this past June) was much harder, I too didn't feel like baking my own cake even though I had planned on it. It honestly felt like I had lost a year... didn't I just turn 30?
    The bars look fantastic. I haven't actually used dates in anything before, it's one of those things that I constantly overlook, and then never think about.

  2. 31 was much harder than 30 for me as well..perhaps that is typical, since 29 doesn't seem that old. I guess the 'plus' side is that when you are still young enough to look forward to birthdays in an uncomplicated fashion, you don't have your own house, which IS nice...

    I haven't used dates in a long time either. They are very sweet, but that can be nice, since it allows you to cut down sugar elsewhere in the recipe, and they have a moist, 'gooey' quality which other dried fruits lack.

  3. I think these would be good made with Constant Comment tea, not that I ever have that in the house. They have a nice gooey look to them.

    Milestone birthdays have never meant much to me either, except for maybe age 13, which I vaguely recall as being sort of exciting, although I think it had more to do with that being the summer I got contact lenses. But 16, 21, 30 ... eh. Even 40 was not a big deal because I didn't feel old; if anything I still felt like the same dumb kid I always was. But I would say age 47 seemed like the place where I crossed over into middle age (even though, technically, that occurred a few years earlier). I'll be 49 in another few days, and that seems weird and borderline impossible to me. I am pretty sure there's been an error somewhere.

    Cake is nice, but I always have to have some type of noodle on my birthday. Asian superstition: long noodles equal long life.

  4. @Flurrious--I wonder about the possibility of making a cupcake with a topping that looks like noodles made out of fondant, or perhaps 'haystack' cookies, which I think are made from crispy Chinese noodles. That would combine both types of birthday treats...cake and noodles...

    12 and 13 were pretty dark years--remarkable in a different way than an 'Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret' fashion--and I agree that sometimes there can be a discrepancy between what ages are supposed to feel like, culturally, and how 'you' feel. Part of me still feels like a child, despite what the calender says.

  5. Can you use bagged dates?

    I still feel 12. :)