earl grey date & pear bars

every time i require some sort of medical procedure, i severely underestimate the recovery time. on the up side, i've gone into a small handful of procedures complete unconcerned and blissfully unaware of how i would feel on the flip side. like the time i biked to my appointment to get an iud... after writhing around in pain for 30 minutes, i conceded that i would need to call for a ride home. last week, i had plans with a friend to go to the climbing gym the day after my oral surgery. i had no idea the procedure would last 4 hours, or that i would be told not to do anything strenuous for two weeks! two weeks! impossible! i'm on a tight training schedule to prepare myself for my first climbing road trip next month. so i did lay low for about 5 days, just taking walks and doing light yoga at home. but now i'm gradually adding my activities back in, and can finally eat as usual - so long as the food is cut into small bite sizes. i have a strong desire to chomp into an apple, but that will have to wait another two weeks. 

today i remade a recipe i had been craving for sometime, knowing that they would be comfortable to eat and absolutely delicious! these bars are a play on a recipe from the blog my new roots. i loved the idea of tea infused into the bars, but decided to use earl grey instead - which i thought would go nicely with dried pears and dates. indeed it did. i also added dried tea leaves (from the fabulous steven smith teamaker) into the filling, which contributed the perfect amount of earl grey intensity and wonderful texture. 

earl grey date & pear bars ~ makes 20  
about 75 minutes

1 cup unsweetened dried pear, chopped (or dried apple) 
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
pinch sea salt
1 heaping tablespoons loose leaf earl grey

2 cups rolled oats (gluten free if you prefer) or oat flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon loose leaf early grey 
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

bring 1 1/3 cups water to boil, remove from heat and steep one tablespoon (or 2-3 tea bags) of earl grey tea leaves for 15 minutes. then strain tea, or remove tea bags and measure 1/3 cup tea into a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. stir and let sit while you prepare other ingredients (at least 10 minutes to create a "gel"). 

to make the dough, pulse oats in a food processor until you create a coarse flour. add coconut sugar, baking soda and sea salt and pulse to combine. add melted coconut oil, chia seed gel and vanilla extract and pulse until a dough forms. scoop dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrapping tightly. let dough rest in the fridge for about 45 minutes. 

for the filling, chop dried fruit into small bits and place into a small sauce pan. add remaining 1 cup of brewed tea and lemon juice to sauce pan along with the scrapings from your vanilla bean (need a vanilla bean tutorial?). simmer covered, over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until the fruit absorbs the liquid. let cool for a few minutes before placing in a cleaned food processor and blending to desired consistency. you can leave it chunky, or puree it completely. afterwards, add 1 heaping tablespoon of tea leaves directly into the puree. do not puree, just mix with spoon to leave the tea leaves intact. they add a great texture to the filling! 

preheat oven to 350. 

to assemble the bars, remove the dough from the fridge and unwrap. kneed the dough with your hands a bit to make it more malleable, and less crumbly. cut dough in half. roll each half into a log and place one in between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a 4-inch wide strip, trimming edges if needed. remove top layer of parchment paper, and spoon half the pear/date mixture along the center. use the bottom parchment paper to help you fold the dough around the filling. press seal slightly. cut the log into 10 or so bars, and place each bar seam-side down on parchment lined baking sheet. repeat with remaining dough and filling. 

bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. let cool and store in air tight container. these do great in the freezer as well - just pull out a few bars the night before and they will defrost overnight in time for breakfast!