Yields: about 12 bars Prep Time: 25 minutes Total Time: 2.5 hours
Naturally sweet strawberries are combined with tropical flavors (and healthy fat) from coconut in this healthy and fruity version of crispy rice treats. Plus, a colorful and tasty topping adds extra pizazz with crushed dehydrated strawberries.
1/2 cup frozen (or fresh strawberries)
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup pure cane sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 cups crispy rice cereal (gluten free if needed - watch this one, as many rice cereals use barley malt)
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
For the topping:
3/4 cup dehydrated or freeze-dried strawberries (preferably organic and unsulphured)
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
*1. In a sauce pan, combine strawberries, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, vanilla and coconut oil. On low to medium heat, keeping the mixture just below a bowl, let the strawberries break down. I used a potato masher, and then eventually used an immersion blender.
*Another option is to puree the strawberries and sugar cane in a food processor prior to heating. Then add this strawberry puree to the pan with other ingredients from Step 1.
2. In a large bowl, mix together dry cereal and shredded coconut. Add in strawberry sauce and mix until well combined.
3. In an oiled (just a bit of coconut oil will do) 7 x 10.5 (or similar) dish, pour in rice mixture and pat down evenly with a spatula.
4. Using the flat end of a meat tenderizer, crush dehydrated strawberries in a sealed plastic bag. Sprinkle on the top of the rice mixture. Follow up with the shredded coconut.
5. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to harden. To serve, simply cut with a sharp knife, or use a cookie cutter to make a desired shape. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.
I think I’ve mentioned we no strangers to enjoying sweets in this house. Now, if it were just me, I might be getting a little more salad and veggie sandwiches in my daily diet. However, that’s not the case – although I try!
So, when it comes to making sweets, I do my best to incorporate some sort of fruit, vegetable, whole grain or healthy fat. Actually the more of these ingredients I can get in a dish, AND keep it tasting good, the better!
I wouldn’t mind trying marshmallows instead of brown rice syrup, but I really wanted to keep as much refined sugar out as possible. Brown rice syrup adds some additional nutrients, such as calcium, as opposed to refined sugar with little to no nutrients. I did add just a bit of cane sugar to really enhance the natural sweetness of the strawberries. Coconut oil adds healthy fat as opposed to its counterpart of butter in traditional crispy treats. Shredded coconut brings a little extra texture inside the bar, as well as the topping.
As for the taste, these do not have your traditional marshmallow undertone, but instead are strong in strawberry. Additionally, the brown rice syrup doesn't have as intense of a sweetness as pure cane sugar, but is sweet, especially combined with a bit of cane sugar and strawberries. The coconut is not overpowering, but adds a slightly sweet and nutty hint throughout. My kids eyes lit up every time I pulled them out of the fridge for dessert. These are ones of those sweet treats I am more than happy to dish out!
The dehydrated strawberries on top are organic and unsulphured. I prefer organic as some studies show that pesticides become more concentrated when a food is dried. Additionally, sulphur dioxide is added as a mold inhibitor to dried fruit. While some claim this is harmless, there are still some concerns as to the complete safety and side effects (skin reactions, increased incidences of asthma, skin reactions, etc.), so I prefer to avoid.
I made these for Valentine’s Day, as a naturally colored festive treat. Although, I could easily make these for an everyday dessert. It really isn’t that complicated, as the strawberries break up naturally in the heat, and add the natural sugars to become part of the “glue” holding the treats together. I refuse to use artificial dyes in our holiday and celebrations. There are just too many natural and healthier options available. Beets (check out this Perfectly Pink Beet Frosting) are a favorite for pinks and reds, but in this case, strawberries work well, too!
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