This entry was previously posted at the Magazine of Yoga.
Confession: I like fruitcake. Not the cake of my childhood, chock full of artificially colored and flavored glacéed cherries, orange peel and citron. That cake arrived in mid-December in a pretty tin (think of the postmen, lugging those weighty parcels from door to door during the holidays!) Usually the gift was from a business associate of my father’s, because, as everyone knows, friends don’t give friends fruitcake. We never did use it as a doorstop, but unwrapped it and set it out on a plate where it remained untouched for the duration of the season, a marvel of neon. Attempts to foist it upon unsuspecting visitors were rebuffed. The only real useable part of the gift was the tin. We saved it to hold the cookies we made every year.
Later in life I discovered that I am, in fact, one of the eight people on the planet who loves fruitcake, and by this I mean the cake now in fashion, made with unadulterated dried fruits, homemade candied peel and freshly roasted nuts. That fruitcake, baked and diligently doused for weeks in advance with doses of brandy, then wrapped in liquor-soaked cheesecloth in a tightly closed tin before its dénouement on Christmas Eve, is a labor of love. A labor few of us have time to undertake. And sadly, a labor that only a few recipients will ever appreciate.
Still, in the spirit of fruitcake, I am going to make these chocolate fruit and nut bars and give them to my friends. Because, despite past fruitcake experiences, I still believe in homemade gifts of food during the holidays. The tricky part is getting it right. The gift must be special. I mean, fabulous! The gift must be wrapped as beautifully as a gift from Neiman Marcus. Most importantly, the gift must be appropriate to the recipient. We are bombarded by “treats” at this time of year, all well and good, but not for your friend who has been struggling with her weight, or cannot eat gluten, or has other dietary restrictions. One size may not fit all. Just because I like something (e.g., fruitcake!) doesn’t mean it will please my friend. And to top it off, it must be pleasurable to make and give. And that means preparation and packaging of such a gift must not make you feel over-extended or cranky.
As an antidote to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all other commercial urges of the season, I highly recommend making these bars. While it may not be a one-size-fits-all affair, you can bet that almost everyone likes chocolate. Now that we know how good it is for you, it is a guilt-free pleasure, too. Add some toasted nuts, a little maple syrup and a little salt, and you could consider these babies healthy enough for snacks to bring along on errand expeditions (in moderation.) Good luck with that. Moderation poses a bit of problem, because once you start eating these bars it’s hard to stop. For that reason, I recommend wrapping them immediately, preferably individually, in festive little cellophane bags tied with sparkly ribbons, so it will take a little more effort and thought to get at them.
Find the recipe at The Magazine of Yoga and happy holiday giving!