Coconut Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars

I have a lot of nanaimo bars in my arsenal, but these definitely deviate the most from the norm.  A twist on the traditional, these no-bake squares feature a sweet-tart, cranberry and coconut cocoa crust, a creamy pumpkin buttercream, and a smooth chocolate topping. My Cakes and Cookies book features one just like the original.

Coconut Pumpkin Nanaimo Bars


For the crust:
1 cup dried cranberries
1 3/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt

For the buttercream:
1/2 cup vegan buttery spread (not margarine)
6 tablespoons mashed pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or Himalayan salt
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 to 2 tablespoons nondairy milk

For the topping:
6 ounces (170g) nondairy semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread, such as Earth Balance

Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.

To make the crust, put the cranberries in a small bowl. Top with warm water, and let sit for about 5 minutes. Drain well.

Put the coconut, walnut pieces, ground flaxseed, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a food process. Pulse about 8 times to combine. Add the drained cranberries. Process until the mixture starts to stick together (you should be able to squeeze it in your hand and it stay together), about 1 minute. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Put in the freezer while preparing the buttercream.

To make the buttercream, put the vegan buttery spread, pumpkin, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a hand mixer or the stand mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, about 2 minutes. Whisk the cornstarch into the icing sugar. Add half of mixture to the pumpkin mixture, beating well to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Turn the mixer to low speed. Add 1 tablespoon of the milk and the remaining icing sugar, a little at a time, until well combined. Beat on high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture onto the crust, smoothing evenly. Return the pan to the freezer for at least 10 minutes while making the topping.

To make the topping, put the chocolate chips and vegan buttery spread in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 30 second intervals, stirring between each one, until the mixture is smooth and melted. (Alternatively, use a double boiler). Pour the mixture onto the buttercream layer. Spread evenly.

Refrigerate until firm, then cut into squares. Serve cold, and store leftovers in the fridge or freezer.


Peanut Butter-Maple Cereal Bars

With a hint of maple and a smooth chocolate topping, these cereal bars are a twist on the traditional rice crisp square. Not a fan of peanut butter? Try any natural nut or seed butter, such as hazelnut, almond, or sunflower seed — they all work just as well.

peanut butter cereal bars

Peanut Butter Maple Cereal Bars

3 cups O-shaped cereal (I used Nature’s Path Whole O’s)
3 cups brown rice crisp cereal (I used Nature’s Path Brown Rice Crisps)
3/4 cup salted, dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 heaping cup natural peanut butter
1 cup dark pure maple syrup*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet nondairy chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)
2 teaspoons coconut oil (I use nonvirgin for these ones)

Line a 9-inch square pan with waxed paper.

Put the cereals and peanuts in a large bowl. Mix to combine.

Put the peanut butter and maple syrup in a saucepan. Bring to medium heat and cook, stirring until the mixture is creamy. Turn to medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 90 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

Pour the mixture over the cereal mixture. Mix until well-coated. Press the mixture snuggly into the prepared pan (careful, it will be quite warm). Refrigerate or freeze while making the topping.

To make the topping, put the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second intervals on medium-power, stirring between each one, until melted and smooth. (You can also use a double boiler here).

Remove the bars from the refrigerator or freezer and spread the chocolate on top. Refrigerate until it is set. Cut into portions. Eat many. Store “leftovers” in the refrigerator or freezer.

[Note: Any pure maple syrup works, but dark is best for adding that maple flavor. Even better, you can get it locally at White Meadows Farm.]