When I was a small babe, I was pretty good at eating all of the healthful meals that our mother put on our plates. She knew the importance of those greens. However, as soon as her back was turned, I would swallow a drumstick sundae cone whole. I had recurring dreams that it was Easter and I had in my possession a football field-sized pastel pink basket full of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. I always woke up sorely disappointed. I was a fiend and I had a problem.

Thankfully I began to realize that about 5 minutes after consuming that hedonistic bowl of ice cream, I felt horrible. My stomach hurt, I got shaky, and had no one to blame but myself. Could it be the pounds of sugar that I was consuming? Damnit it was. As my interest in nutrition grew, I learned just how detrimental refined, processed foods are for our bodies. Not only is it bad for us, but in excess, white sugar can actually steal nutrients from our guts and damage intestinal cells, according to certified nutritionist Mira Calton, who co-authored the book Rich Food, Poor Food. Scary stuff.IMG_6252_Fotor_CollageI think what really changed the game for me was being more mindful. If I really listen to my body and what it wants, I’m usually drawn toward healthful, whole foods. There is so much flavor and wonder in what plants can offer us. Of course, that is not always the case; on occasion I still want a huge slice of chocolate cake – and I listen to that too. The maintenance of gratitude and honoring our bodies’ wishes allows us to marvel at the compilation of heartbeats that keeps us moving, breathing, and growing. If you want dessert, eat that damn dessert and be grateful that you can! Just do it slowly and with appreciation.

These Salted Caramel Squares quell my sweet tooth. I always keep fruit, minimally-processed chocolate, or dates on hand but when there is time to whip something up, these are quite easy to make. They are refined-sugar free as well as gluten-free, vegan and packed with healthy fatty brain food. Sweetened only with raw, whole dates whose fiber is kept intact, your body will not be shocked into a sugar craze as it digests. I glow at the fact that such a thing can be created out of a few different types of nuts, some dates, and coconut oil. It doesn’t taste like it’s good for you, but it is. The consistency of cookie dough and just salty enough, they are by far one of my favorite desserts I’ve had to date (ha). If you aren’t a fan of the salty/sweet thing, cut the salt in half and they will be just as lovely.

Salted Caramel Squares

For the crust:

  • 1/2 c toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c toasted almonds
  • 1 c medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 1 cup medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 c raw cashews, soaked in warm water for 1 hour
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 c almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate topping:

  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 2 oz dark chocolate

Line an 8×8 baking pan with foil and spray generously with coconut oil, set aside. To make the crust, blend all crust ingredients in a food processor until crumbly and mixture resembles coarse sand. Transfer crust mix to the prepared pan and, using your fingers, spread evenly to all corners, ensuring there are no holes in the crust and that it is compact. Put pan in the freezer to set while you prepare the crust. In your high-speed food processor, combine all filling ingredients until liquified and uniform. This may take a few pulses and rearrangements with a fork. The filling should have the same consistency as cream cheese. Remove the pan from the freezer and using a spatula, spread the filling atop the crust in an even layer. Put pan back in the freezer and let set for an hour.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring constantly with a spatula. When the chocolate has melted to liquid, pull the pan from the freezer and drizzle the chocolate as you see fit. Return the pan to the freezer and let set for another hour. To serve, slice into squares with a sharp knife. Keep in an airtight container in the freezer for two weeks.

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