Fresh Fig Bars for Summer.

These soft and spongy, summertime-inspired Fresh Fig Bars are my spin on a "fig bar" treat. This recipe is fig-bar-meets-muffin-top-meets-morning-oatmeal. Vanilla, spice, maple flavors with a hint of citrus, walnut, coconut and banana. Plenty of candy-sweet fig flavor in there too. Delicious enough for dessert yet healthy enough to fuel your day...

Secret Spots. Lets play a game. Think back. Way back. To when you were a kid or a teenager. Where was that one spot in the whole world where you would go when you wanted to get away from it all? Hide away? A secret spot where you were sure no one would find you. Not even your parents. Or so you imagined it that way. Where did you go to eclipse yourself in something else?

My spot. Was a fig tree. Now until you have had a giant California fig tree growing in your backyard this may sound like a strange spot. And maybe my tree was special. But it was the perfect place to climb and hide away. It had long, lean, silky soft branches - clay white in color. The bouncy, shiny, broad fig leaves bloomed and feathered in every direction, creating a shielded canopy of lime, pistachio and avocado green.

The branches were sturdy enough to hold my weight, yet very springy - as I climbed, they stretched slightly in an elastic way. I'd climb a few levels to a three pronged cluster of branches that resembled a tiny seat. I could lounge there all day, cooled from the treetop shade. Smelling the fig-scented breeze and watching the tiny green figs - starting out no bigger than a dew drop - grow and bubble into teardrop-shaped pillows of silky-skinned purple. And in the summer months, when the tree was heavy with ripe, sweet fruit - I'd snag a few figs and snack away as I melted into the branches and thought of nothing more than loving my tree spot.

So from that, I have always had a special love of fresh California figs. And this recipe is a love-filled treat with memories folded into each tender fig-topped square.

Fig Bars. I had a craving to make fig bars. And at first I was going all in - veganized Fig Newton-ish style. But most all fig bar recipes use dried figs. And while I love a cake-y, tender, sandwich-style dried fig bar, I had two baskets of fresh figs on my counter. So my bars needed a fresh fig spin.

These bars are filled with healthy ingredients: fax and chia seeds, maple syrup, a hint of grapefruit, warm spices, oats, walnuts, organic sugar, almond milk, banana and plenty of fresh, plump, plum-purple figs. Lightly baked to intensify their candy-like sweetness.

Success! I really had no clue how this recipe would turn out. I was gambling with my two baskets of figs. $3.99 ..$5.99! (the $3.99 was when they were on sale!) a piece at the Whole Foods. Not a cheap gamble. And baking in summertime was not something I was too excited about. But after one bite of a warm, fresh from the oven fig bar - I was sold. And bliss from my fig tree memories came rolling back with each warm bite.

These bars are delicious warm - served with some chilled almond milk. Or chill the bars and enjoy them cold - or as a grab-and-go breakfast or snack.

Don't have fresh figs? These bars would be yummy using whatever fresh fruit is in season. Berries, apples, peaches and more!

Fresh Fig Bars
vegan, makes about 18 square bars

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups flour (I used 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour + 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
1 cup organic sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp salt (pink salt for me)
1/2 cup warm water + 1 tsp flax seeds + 1 tsp chia seeds (stir briskly)
1 1/4 cups almond milk, vanilla or plain
1 large extra-ripe banana, mashed
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix (or just use cinnamon, nutmeg and/or ginger powder)

2-4 Tbsp softened virgin coconut oil (optional for richness + for greasing pan)

Fig mixture:
2 baskets fresh figs
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup grapefruit juice + pinch of citrus zest (or sub with orange)

1/3 cup raw walnuts, chopped
1 tsp oats
1 tsp organic sugar

1 baking sheet


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Grease a high-rimmed baking sheet with 1-2 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil. Thickly grease the pan - a few clumps on the sheet are desired - as they will melt into the bottom layer of the bars. If you want to make your bars a bit on the dessert-y, rich side, you can use another 2 tablespoons of oil to dot on top of the bars before baking. If you do not have coconut oil - you can sub with vegan buttery spread or simply grease the pan with veggie spray or oil. But really, the coconut oil is best because of the amazing hint of flavor it adds.

3. Combine the water + seeds and stir briskly. Allow to sit and thicken for a few minutes.

4. Combine the oats, flour, salt, spices, baking powder and sugar. Fold in the wet ingredients - including the seed water, aka flax/chia "egg." Your batter should be thick, yet still pourable. Add an extra splash of almond milk if needed.

5. Thinly slice the figs - removing the woody stems. Toss the figs in the maple syrup and grapefruit juice.

6. Pour the batter into the baking sheet and top with the figs. Pour the excess juice/maple liquid right over top the figs.

7. Sprinkle the walnuts, oats and sugar toppings over top the batter.

Wet batter + toppings before going in the oven..

8. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes - or until the edges brown and the center is cooked through. The bars will firm up a bit after cooling so take care to not over cook.

after baking:

9. Cool a bit and then slice. Serve warm or chill in the fridge. The bars freeze very well too.

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