My neighbors have a table. I was debating on writing about this for a while, but as I sat typing out seemingly meaningless tidbits about coconut sugar, I heard a phone ring. A rather loud conversation followed, and I thought, well, there’s a sign.
I enjoy sitting outside on my balcony this time of year. Truth be told, I enjoy sitting outside any time of year, weather permitting. The only thing that ruins this for me is loud noise piercing the somewhat surprising – for a city at least – silence.
Usually, it is those loud leaf blowers that send me scurrying back inside. I loathe those things and feel badly for the landscapers who have to wear them around on their backs in 90 degree heat. I consider those monstrosities such a nuisance that I would ban them if I had that kind of power. Our yards might suffer, but our peace of mind would improve.
As you may have guessed, I do not care for a lot of loud noise. Unless I am jamming to some tunes or sitting in a stadium cheering on my team, I like the quiet. So, the fact that I am overhearing a phone conversation that is practically a shouting match two balconies over right now is trying my patience. Seriously, I can even hear the voice on the other side of the line.
A feeling of lingering annoyance stayed with me a few weeks ago when I walked by the offenders’ apartment. To my surprise, the door was wide open with no one around. As I peered inside, I saw two sets of sandals by the door, a folding table, and two chairs.
That was it. No couch to stretch out on. No comfortable chair to curl up in. No television to turn on to pass the time. There was nothing else in that apartment but those shoes and a meager table and chairs. What really hit me about this scene was that the modest folding table was covered with a tablecloth. It felt like someone was making the best of a kind of sad situation.
Who knows what these people are going through? Maybe nothing. Maybe something. Maybe the movers have not yet come to deliver their belongings. All I know is getting a glimpse into how these people who annoyed me with their loud voices were living put me back in my place in a hurry. I guess it is true that we just never know what people are going through.
So, here I am with my seemingly insignificant coconut date bars. They are not all that simple to whip up, but they do make for a filling breakfast or snack.
The original recipe boasted five different types of coconut, but I ditched the unsweetened shredded coconut and unsweetened coconut flakes to use up the sweetened shredded coconut I had on hand. The other two forms of coconut are coconut oil and coconut sugar, and you should probably consider sticking with those.
Am I telling you that you have to buy coconut sugar? Well, you do not have to, but I have not tried the recipe any other way. You could probably get by with brown sugar, but again, I have not tested any sugar substitutions.
Bon Appetit provides a nice primer on baking with different sugars, including coconut sugar, so you might want to check that out for substitution ideas. Cooking Light also provides a nice visual on how the same cake recipe differs when baked with six different sugars. Because, you know, every situation is different, even when we forget that truth sometimes. Enjoy.
- 6 ounces Medjool dates (about 12)
- 1¼ cups almonds, divided
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup coconut oil, room-temperature
- 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- ⅓ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey
- 2½ cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Pit the dates and then bring them along with one cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid is almost completely evaporated.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- While the plumped dates cool, pulse one cup of the almonds, whole wheat flour, oats, salt, and baking powder in a food processor until the almonds are very finely ground, about 1 minute.
- Add the coconut oil, butter, coconut sugar, and two tablespoons of the honey and pulse to combine.
- Next pulse in one cup of the shredded coconut.
- Transfer this mixture to an 8x8" baking dish lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray and lined with parchment paper along the bottom and sides (leave a bit of overhang on all sides).
- Pack the mixture evenly across the bottom of dish (the layer will be thick). Don't be shy about really packing it down (the bottom of a measuring cup works well for this), as the more compact, the better it will hold together once baked.
- Pulse the cooled dates, the lemon juice, and the lemon zest in a food processor until smooth.
- Spread the date purée evenly over the crust, leaving a narrow ½" or so border around the edges.
- Chop the remaining ¼ cup almonds and mix them together with the remaining 1½ cups shredded coconut and two teaspoons honey.
- Scatter this topping evenly over the date purée and gently press it in to the top.
- Bake at 350 degrees F until the top is browned and the edges are very firm, about 40–45 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.