Minty Nanaimo Bars (Gluten Free, Vegan)

IMG_0211Nanaimo Bars are one of my all-time favourite treats. It may have something to do with the fact that I grew up just a ferry ride off the shores of Nanaimo- or perhaps it has nothing to do with that and just has to do with the fact that they are straight up delicious. Either way, one day I was lying in bed, dreaming of Nanaimo bars (which I hadn’t been able to eat because my nursing baby doll cannot have dairy, plus we went vegan) and concocted this recipe in my mind. They say that necessity is the mother of invention—-well it’s true. I had made a boxed version of them back at Christmas and realized how the ingredients really are quite simple and that it’d actually be quite easy to veganize them. So I gave it a try a few weeks ago to see if the recipe was as good in real life as they were in my head, and they did not disappoint!

I first had my husband try them, because he is a very picky dessert eater and my toughest critic (in the good way). He smiled and laughed as he ate them (which is a good sign) and said that they were the best recipe I have made to date. His response was thrilling and I decided to bring them to my family to see if it wasn’t just his hunger talking. They all loved them as well! My sister-in-law made me laugh- Immediately after she took a bite she told me that, knowing it was gluten free and vegan, she had taken the smallest piece there because she didn’t expect good things. She was visibly surprised and told me they tasted like an After Eight. I’ll take it!

After taking a photo and posting it to instagram, a bunch of people asked for the recipe. I mostly eyeballed it the first time so coming up with a transferrable recipe was a great excuse to make them again and now it is finally in writing.

Disclaimer: These definitely do not fit into the “healthy” category. They may be healthier than store bought, but definitely should not be considered health food.

INGREDIENTS:

Base Layer:

– 2/3 cup ground walnuts (I take about 1 cup of walnuts, place them on a cookie tray and toast them for 8-10 minutes at 425F, let them cool, then throw them in the food processor.
– 1 cup graham crumbs (Gluten Free)
– 2/3 cup Shredded unsweetened coconut
– 1 cup Oats
– 2/3 cup Coconut Oil
– 1/3 honey (or maple syrup for Vegan)
– 6TBSP Cocoa Powder
– 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
– dash of salt
– 2 TBSP Almond Milk

Middle Layer:
– 1/3 cup coconut oil- do NOT melt
– 4 ½ TBSP Almond Milk
– 1 ¼ tsp Mint Extract
– 3 ½ cups icing (confectioners) sugar
– ½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Top Layer:
– 1 bag GF, DF Chocolate Chips (250-300g)
– 2 TBSP Coconut Oil (Could also use Vegan butter or margarine)

THE HOW-TO

Base Layer:
1- In a bowl, combine walnuts, graham crumbs, coconut and oats. Set aside.
2- In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt coconut oil. Once melted, add in honey and cocoa and mix until smooth. Once smooth, add in salt and vanilla and stir again. Finally, add in almond milk. (The almond milk tends to make the coconut oil separate from the mixture so add it last).
3- Immediately after adding the almond milk to the chocolate mixture, quickly combine the chocolate mixture with the dried ingredients that were set aside until everything is well mixed.
4- Transfer base mixture into a lined 9×13 pan and pat down until the whole pan is covered and evenly dispersed. 5- Place pan in freezer to set while working on second layer.

Middle Layer:
1- Scoop coconut oil right out of container into a bowl. You need approximately 1/3 cup- do NOT melt the oil to measure it out. You want it to be fluffy the way that it is when it is scooped. Place bowl into the freezer for a minute or while you tidy up the ingredients from making the base layer.
2- Pull bowl out of freezer and beat the chilled coconut oil with a mixer (the way you would butter) until it is smooth and the clumps are out. It should only take 30seconds-1 minute- any longer and the oil will start to melt, so just do it long enough to break up the chunks.
3- Add in 1 cup of the icing sugar, 1 ½ TBSP of Almond Milk, ¼  tsp Mint extract and ½ tsp vanilla extract then Mix on high until well combined.
4- Repeat step 3 two more times.
5- Add in remaining icing sugar ( ½ cup) and Mint extract ( ½  tsp) and mix- again on High until well combined and smooth- should make peaks and look like cake icing.
6- Scoop out onto base layer, distributing it evenly over the whole surface. Place back in the freezer to chill while working on the top layer.
***Optional: You can either leave the middle layer white or you could add in a touch of green food dye, or even add a drop of chlorophyll to turn it green so it looks minty***

Top Layer:
1- Place large glass or metal bowl over a medium sized saucepan filled with water and place on high heat to create a double boiler. Once the water is boiling and the bowl is hot, add chocolate chips into the bowl, stirring gently until melted. Take bowl off heat and stir until smooth.
2- Stir 2 TBSP coconut oil (or substitute of choice) into melted chocolate until amalgamated.
3- Pour chocolate sauce over top of middle layer. Smooth into corners and then jiggle pan side to side to level it all out.
4- Place pan back in the freezer for 15 minutes. If chocolate topping is still not fully set, place back in the freezer for another 5 minutes. Pull dessert out of the pan by holding the parchment and lower onto a cutting board. Cut through the bars to create the desired sizes you want. The goal is to get the chocolate so that it isn’t so soft that it oozes everywhere, but not so hard that it cracks when you cut it.
5- Place back in the freezer until fully set then store in airtight container in the fridge or freeze them for later.

Last step, but definitely not least- ENJOY! If you try the recipe out, I’d love to know what you think!  

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