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Old Fashioned Date Nut Bars

Date, Nut and Coconut Bars

by Barbara Kiebel on December 10, 2014

Today is my birthday and while I do love German Chocolate Cake; that’s a big dessert to make without a party planned (check out my friend Brooks recipe that I’m DYING to make!).  So I decided to make myself a whole bunch of these Old Fashioned Date Nut Bars that I’ve loved since I was a young girl. So many of my recipes and cookbooks are still packed in boxes; I knew what I wanted but had no idea where the recipe was and became somewhat worried. I knew I could search online but I didn’t want to; I wanted to find that little yellow binder with the handwritten recipe card; some of these recipes are more than the sum of their ingredients; some are such precious memories too and seeing those cards can take me back in time quickly to the moment of first discovery so I keep that little binder and was so hoping it had not been lost in the move.

My Grandma Bathe (my Dad’s mother) and my Mom made these Date Nut Bars for holidays for as long as I can remember (and they were my Dad’s favorite too!). When they were both gone and no longer carrying the torch of keeping this a family treasure I was happy to take on that role. Wondering now if those simple things that meant so much to me will matter to my own girls; they don’t seem as much inclined to be vested in family baking ventures as I have always been so maybe it’s perfect that I’m sharing this today in hopes many of you will love them and hold this recipe precious as well.

recipe-binderNot made just for tradition though; I love them. I mean as in I have to package them away and hide them from me so I don’t eat the whole pan love them. They are a simple treat; simple to make, simple to serve and simple to eat. But they are also a delicious one; especially if you love dates in any fashion like I do. Soft yet crispy crust that is replicated as the topping too with a creamy date, walnut and coconut filling sandwiched between. Mine has coconut but I think I might have made that addition a long time ago but other than that? I could almost see the faded recipe card and I remembered fondly the ‘olden’ days when cooks shared their creations with their friends and family and no one yelled about owning a recipe…sharing it was all that mattered.

One last foray into one more box and I’m surprised if you didn’t hear me squeal; seems almost silly but I have few real treasures from those many, many years ago and this little ugly yellow binder is one of them.

date-nut-bars1

These Old Fashioned Date Nut Bars had fallen, not out of favor, but somehow out of my consciousness and I’m glad I thought of them and took the time to discover the recipe; they are absolutely going  back in the rotation.

These are for you Dad; our first year without you as the family patriarch but I will think fondly of you every year when I make these for the holidays. Hope you know you are missed but we’ll be thinking of you; I’m remembering how much you fought to convince Mom to let me have that Princess phone in my room for my big Christmas gift when I was twelve. Still love talking on the phone more than texting. :)

Date Nut Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 18-24 bars
Ingredients
For the Date Filling:
  • 1 lb chopped dates (See notes)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup coconut
For the Crust:
  • 1¾ cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
Instructions
To Make the Filling:
  1. Boil dates, sugar, and water until thick, about 5-10 minutes. Add the butter, vanilla, walnuts and coconut and mix thoroughly.
  2. Set aside to cool a bit.
Prepare the crust:
  1. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the melted butter and mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. Firmly press half of the mixture into a lightly greased 13 x 9 pan.
  3. Cover with filling mixture.
  4. Top with remaining half of crust mixture. Press lightly.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes; watch carefully and do not overbake.
  6. Cut into squares when cool and store in an airtight container.
Notes
Dates are a pain to chop so I used to buy the pre-chopped ones from the grocery store but they were always dry. I noticed that they were coated in sugar too and it hit me one day that this is how they kept them from sticking together. Duh.

So, I put my pitted dates into a food processor and combine the dates with the sugar and chopped until they were a uniform size. So easy and no sticking!

No food processor? Simply put sugar and dates on cutting board and keep mixing them together; it will help to keep them from sticking to your knife and to each other!

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nancy Deutman December 13, 2014 at 10:10 am

Barbara,

Happy belated birthday.

Glad you found your binder. I remember sitting down with my mothers metal recipe card file and copying down all my favorite recipes (some from 4 generations!) before leaving for college. I still have the ones I copied plus some originals from my mother and grandmother so I know how much you cherish yours.

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2 Maureen | Orgasmic Chef December 13, 2014 at 6:01 am

I LOVE date bars and I haven’t had one for maybe 25 years. I used to make them from a package when I was a kid and I’d like another one right now. Yours sure do look familiar. :)
Maureen | Orgasmic Chef Most Recent Post: A MasterClass in Cooking at Palazzo Versace

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3 Paula December 11, 2014 at 7:37 am

Happy Birthday Barb! Wishing you a wonderfully happy year.

How nice that the yellow binder was found. It’s a little treasure that you want to always hang on to.

Love date squares and while I’ve never made them with nuts I can imagine how delicious of an addition the walnuts are.
Paula Most Recent Post: Minty Melting Snowman Cookies

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4 Creative Culinary December 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Thanks so much Paula and YES you need to add the nuts. Toasted before adding. SO good. I seriously hid them from me. But I also seriously know where are. Uh oh. :)

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5 Jamie December 11, 2014 at 3:14 am

Funny, I just bought dates today which I rarely do. Although it is for a savory dish I was thinking about the date nut bread my mom always had in the house. I love old fashioned foods like that date nut bread and your date nut bars that have a family history behind them. I hope you had a very Happy and Delicious Birthday, friend xoxo
Jamie Most Recent Post: Cake Roll – Bûche de Noël

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6 John@Kitchen Riffs December 10, 2014 at 4:39 pm

My mom used to make a recipe very similar to this. Might be the same recipe (or very close) but I can’t check it at the moment — my copy is buried somewhere! Although I know more or less where it is — just don’t want to dig for it. Reason enough to put it on my blog, right? This looks terrific. Oh, and Happy Birthday!
John@Kitchen Riffs Most Recent Post: Cream of Mushroom Soup

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7 Brooks December 10, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Barb, I have some tattered, handwritten recipes in a loose binder, and how they transport me to another time too. The memories of your loved ones are poignant, and fitting to remember on your special day. Thank you for the nod, my friend. Wishing you a Happy Birthday full of wishes to come true!

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8 Creative Culinary December 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

I do thank you for the recipe Brooks; of course I would have much preferred that the finished result appear on my doorstep. Guess I’m gonna have to get to it huh? :)

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