Healthy Snacks

homemade cherry pie lärabars

dried cherries never had it so good ::::


I spent three years of my residency training immersed in strokes, spinal cord injuries, hip and knee replacements, limb amputations, and traumatic brain injuries. A seventy-year-old man with uncontrolled high blood pressure. The twenty-five-year-old man speeding down an icy highway without a seat belt. A severely deconditioned sixty-eight-year-old woman with years of pain from rheumatoid arthritis. The infected limb in the patient with uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, and years of smoking. The seventeen-year-old boy car surfing on the U-Haul van just to impress his friends. And that’s barely grazing the surface.

It was mostly in the eddying swirl of hip and knee replacements and lots of deconditioning, organ transplants, and lots other medical management that I worked long hours, and often relied on snacks to get me through the day since meals were fairly obsolete. (How long does it take to remove 50 surgical staples from someone’s back? Too long. I missed my 15 minute lunch!) The patient turn-over, the floor capacity, and constant ebb and flow of patient status changes (fevers? vomiting? not participating in therapy? bladder retention? bladder leaking? having bowel movements? pain? bleeding? can’t sleep? suicidal?) kept all the residents busy. There never seemed to be an end to the new admissions, the electronic orders, the patient rounds, and most of all: the discharge paperwork. It was this floor that I also went into early labor with Peach, extremely fortunate that my obstetrician was a 60 second walk away in the next building.

We often had medical students on rotations with the associated medical school, and they usually were very helpful and friendly. There were a few duds in the mix, something in any job or career one might pursue, but almost all of the students I interacted with were nothing but helpful (or they were incredibly good actors). I remember one student, I’ll call her Kate, who had no interest in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation as a career but dove right in to learn as much as she could. Even with the decision to pursue Surgery, specializing in Trauma, Kate made efforts to understand her patients. She was the only student I worked with, and I worked with many, who made the choice to learn how it felt to use a wheelchair on a daily basis. After being fitted for a wheelchair through the Seating and Positioning department, Kate wheeled all over campus (downtown Chicago!) for a day. Despite our profession’s efforts to advocate for wheelchair-mobile people, she found that she could barely fit into our cramped residents’ office and, thus, had a hard time doing her job and learning that day. We, in essence, were tacitly and ergonomically permitting exactly what we advocate against: exclusion.


She was a good sport, rubbed her sore arms the next day, and seemed to have a new found respect for rehabilitation physicians and sense of disdain for the residents’ office. She also knew that the residents worked long hours and often had a hard time eating a meal. Before she headed off for a nice weekend of sleeping in and studying, Kate offered me a Cherry Pie Lärabar as a power snack for the next few hours of work I had ahead of me. “Trust me,” she implored. “You’ll like this.” Reticent as I was toward processed granola-type bars in crinkly plastic wrappings, I accepted it gratefully and stowed it in my desk drawer for an emergency. I’m not sure what emergency it would be except that of hunger and the need to throw my pager into the toilet to keep it from ringing for a few minutes.

I was surprised. Lärabars are simple: just nuts and dried fruits packed into a dense bar without added sugar. That’s it. Kate was wrong though: I didn’t like it. I loved  it. I started ordered bulk boxes of Lärabars through the mail. I ate them as snacks, as lunches, as desserts.


 When I consulted numerous websites on how to make these bars, I decided to go with a mosaic approach, piecing together many different sources. I found checking the dough’s moisture essential in creating the right consistency to hold the bars together and for the right density of chew. Don’t exclude yourself from a very flavorful sweet treat. It’s the ultimate power bar, without any processed chemicals. If you’re a little skittish with the healthy tag, try cutting the bars into cubes and dipping them in chocolate. (Chocolate and cherries: best friends!)


homemade cherry pie lärabars
Recipe type: healthy snack
  • 1 cup whole, raw almonds (136 g)
  • 1½ cup whole dates, pitted and roughly chopped (142 g)
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries (132 g) [Dried apricots work well, too.]
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 0-3 teaspoons water (see note)*
  1. Place almonds in food processor and grind until a "sandy" looking (see picture above). Pour almond "sand" into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Without cleaning the processor bowl, add the dates, cherries, salt, and cinnamon. Puree to mix well. If it looks dry, add 1 teaspoon of water. Pulse, and check moistness. Add more water if needed. Pulse and watch for the puree to ball up.
  3. Into the same processor bowl with the fruit puree, add back the almonds. The dough will seem dry again, so pulse, check moistness (feels like clay?), and consider adding more water. To my freshly opened pack of vacuum-packed dried cherries and fairly dried out dates, I added a total of 3 teaspoons of water. Go 1 teaspoon at a time. Mix in processor and look for mixture to ball up again.
  4. Take your fruity-nutty dough out of the processor bowl and knead gently to ensure all is mixed well.
  5. Pack into wax paper (or parchment paper) lined mold (I used a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan). If you have another of the same type of loaf pan, use it to pack the dough be placing it on top. Pack firmly.
  6. Sit overnight at room temperature to dry slightly.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 bars, wrapping in plastic to keep.
* Use the water to moisten the "dough" to obtain the right consistency. If the dough is too dry, it will fall apart. This took me a few tries to get right. If you push your finger into the dough, it will leave a print that does not collapse on to itself. The feel is something like a spongy soft clay. If that doesn't help you, try like thick, (but kind of fluffy feeling) unsweetened peanut butter.


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