March 30, 2013

Coconut Date Squares

According to the Stats Canada Twitter account (a parody of Canadian stats and not affiliated with the actual Statistics Canada) "67 per cent of Canadians will spend the Easter long weekend cleaning their garage." Admittedly, I am taking that extra day to start some spring cleaning. Although it's more like spring unpacking, throwing out and organizing. There seems to be an endless stack of empty boxes that  won't go away after moving places. I am looking forward to the summer in our place though with lot of beautiful skylights and hopefully a newly built deck soon.

Coconut Date Squares

I checked out the new Target store in town yesterday and purchased a few things to spruce up the place for Easter. I think Easter colours and decorations are my favourite of any holiday. The lovely pastel colours, cute animals, bright coloured eggs and spring flowers are all signs that Spring is definitely here. Also, some of my favourite chocolates include Mini Eggs and Creme Eggs.

I even found rainbow coconut at Bulk Barn in pink, yellow and white colours; a neat way to add some colour and flair to desserts. The plates were purchased at Target and are actually plastic salad plates. I am a sucker for anything coral or teal coloured. They have some fairly nice home decoration items as well, but unfortunately, my goal was to stock up on marshmallow Peeps and they didn't have any. I was a little disappointed at their selection of Easter candies and chocolates.

I will probably attempt some shopping tomorrow for food and last-minute treats. For now I am enjoying a day of peace and quiet. Things just seem better with some sunshine, chirping birds and more outdoor time. When it comes to most things though, the right tools for the job are always important.

Take making pizza, for example. I take pizza seriously, so when I am making it at home, I make sure I have the right equipment. First, a pizza stone is essential. One day I would love to have a real pizza oven somewhere in my house or yard to live out my pizza making dreams. A stone is a worthwhile purchase for any serious pizza lover. You also need a pizza paddle. You can't really have one without the other because you will have a hard time moving the pizza from the stone without one. Trust me, it works wonders and both of them together make great, crispy pizza.

I usually make a quick batch of dough and sauce for pizza. There are a ton of recipes out there. My usual recipe involves some tomato paste with a bit of water, honey, spices and a touch of fish sauce. Then add any toppings to the pizza, including meats, olives, vegetables and cheese.

I know it seems a little excessive. And it would be much easier to simply call up your favourite pizza place and order one. And I do have my favourite pizza place(s). But sometimes there's nothing better than homemade and feeling like a pizza making master at home. I don't throw the dough up in the air though. I haven't quite mastered the perfect pizza dough. If you have any recommendations for super dough recipes, let me know.

Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the stone and paddle. Roll out the dough and assemble the pizza near the front of the paddle. While you are making the pizza, heat up the stone in the oven for about 20 minutes. When it's pre-heated, transfer the pizza from the paddle to the stone and bake for about 15 minutes at 400F. You need a hot oven to make good pizza.

Homemade pizza

I had a bit of a transferring mishap with this one, so it's not completely perfect. Like anything, it takes practice and the right tools for the job. I would say that the stone has drastically altered the quality and crispiness of the crust though. And you can put together the whole thing in less than 30 minutes. I usually keep some dough and sauce readymade in the freezer.

With all of the treats and chocolate over this weekend, here's a little something on the lighter side. You could eat it as a dessert, breakfast bar or snack. The recipe is vegan as it uses a mixture of chia seeds and lemon juice to bind the ingredients together instead of eggs. There is also no butter. Save your splurging for the abundance of chocolate eggs/bunnies you'll probably be eating this weekend.

Coconut Date Squares

Coconut Date Bars (adapted from this recipe)

1 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat flour (for gluten-free, substitute with quinoa flour)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup shredded, dried coconut (with some extra to sprinkle on top)
2 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped dates


1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix the chia seeds and lemon juice together and let sit for about 15 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Combine the oil, applesauce and maple syrup, then mix in the chia seed mixture and chopped dates.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine and then pour into a baking pan.

5. Sprinkle some more coconut on top and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares.

They have a bit of tang from the lemon juice and chia seeds, plus some natural sweetness from the dates and coconut. And you can bet these squares have lots of good fibre too. If you're having people over this weekend, they will love a break from the super sweet with these healthy, filling squares.

Coconut Date Squares

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