I have a big surprise for you guys! For the last month, my buddy Sam from ItDoesntTasteLikeChicken.com and I have been secretly organizing a brand new event called the Vegan Mystery Box Challenge. What is the #VMBC, you ask? Much like the TV show Chopped, the idea is that Sam and I would choose three mystery ingredients and invite all the other bloggers in our vegan community to create their own unique recipe with these same ingredients and we’d all publish them on the same day, in one big festival of awesome vegan recipes.
Well, today is that day! I’m so excited to introduce the first-ever Vegan Mystery Box Challenge, and the three ingredients we chose were [cue Ted Allen voice]… coconut milk, pistachios, and cranberries. We announced these ingredients to our group of 20+ bloggers about 10 days ago, and they all created some really unique and tasty dishes — check out the bottom of this post to see what everyone else created with these three ingredients.
As far as my own recipe, it definitely took me longer than the 30 minutes they have on Chopped to come up with the right dish. I knew I wanted to do something holiday-ish, and the combination of fruits and nuts reminded me of fruit cake, while the coconut and nuts reminded me of those horribly unhealthy Magic Cookie Bars (you know – buttery graham cracker crust, sweetened condensed milk, butterscotch chips, etc.) that everyone makes for the holidays. So, I decided to splice together a healthier spin on magic cookie bars with a fruit cake feel – all finished with a white chocolate drizzle made from coconut milk + cocoa butter. As bizarre as that all sounds, this turned out to be one of my favorite recipes that I’ve published all year. A pistachio crust, date and cranberry filling, and shredded coconut – all baked until golden and topped with a creamy vegan white chocolate sauce. The process is easy, the flavors blend so beautifully together, and it tastes like an edible version of the holidays. I’m definitely making them for Christmas next week and I hope you’ll give them a shot!
Makes 9 large bars
- 1/2 cup pistachios
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1/3 cup + 1/3 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons dates
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 1/4 cup cocoa butter
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 325º F
Step Zero: The Coconut White Chocolate Drizzle
This white chocolate sauce is like liquid gold. It’s a totally vegan white chocolate that tastes amazing and actually solidifies when chilled. We’ll make this first so that it can chill while we’re doing everything else. Here’s how:
In a saucepan, combine 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk with 1/4 cup of cocoa butter (can be found in most health-conscious grocery stores), a little brown/coconut sugar, and a pinch of vanilla. Keep the heat *very* low, as the cocoa can burn easily. Whisk regularly until the cocoa butter is melted and everything is incorporated. Remove from the heat and place this sauce in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up a bit, meanwhile…
Step One: The Crust
To make the pistachio-based crust, combine 1/2 cup pistachios, 1/3 cup pecans, 3 large dates, and 2 teaspoons of coconut oil in a food processor and process until fully combined and no large chunks remain. If you pinch a piece between your fingers, it should hold together. Press this crust down evenly in the bottom of a 9×9 inch baking pan:
Step Two: The Filling
True to its name, this filling is halfway between magic cookie bar and fruit cake, made with dates, nuts, cranberries and orange zest. To make, simply measure out 1/2 cup of dates, 1/3 cup dried cranberries, and 1/3 cup pecans. Carefully chop them on a cutting board until they’re all in small, uniform pieces. Then, layer onto the crust and press down gently:
Step Three: The Coconut Topping
Sprinkle on half of the shredded coconut, then grab the white chocolate sauce from the fridge and drizzle half of the sauce evenly over the topping. As this heats, it will seep into the filling, but when it cools, it will create a firm texture that holds everything together.
When ready, pop these bars in the oven for about 15 minutes at 325º F just until the coconut begins to brown, taking care not to let anything burn.
Step Four: Finish
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Then, top with a little more shredded coconut and the rest of the white chocolate drizzle, which will now remain solid and create a beautiful garnish. Refrigerate for at least an hour so that everything can firm up before attempting to cut and serve.
Check Out What Everyone Else Made for the #VMBC:
- Vegan Cranberry Pistachio Loaf by It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
- Cranberry Cointreau Coconut Ice Cream with Candied Pistachios by Vegan Yack Attack
- Cranberry Cheesecake & Pistachio Stuffed Vegan French Toast by Connoisseurus Veg
- Pistachio Crusted Cranberry Cashew Coconut Cheese by Lemon and Coconut
- Cranberry Pistachio and Mango Salad by Veggies Save the Day
- Vegan Chocolate Cranberry Cake by The Seasonal Diet
- Jolly Bollywood Holiday Curry by Sexie Veggies
- Cranberry Pistachio Donuts by Two City Vegans (Casey)
- Cranberry Pistachio Gingersnap Truffles by Two City Vegans (Alix)
- Warm Barley Bowl with Roasted Brussels, Sweet Potatoes and a Coconut Curry Dressing by Taste Space
- Whole Wheat Cranberry Pistachio Vegan Biscotti by Veggie Inspired Journey
- Coconut Pistachio Cashew Cheese Panini with Cranberry Jam by Peppers and Peaches
- Toasted Pistachio Rice Pudding with Candied Cranberries by The Lazy Vegan Baker
- Pistachio and Cranberry Cream Sandwich Cookies by Love Me Feed Me
- Vegan Meringue Nests with Cranberry Coconut Whip and Crushed Pistachios by The Viet Vegan
- Vegan Coconut Quinoa Salad by Beets Not Meats
- Cranberry Orange & Pistachio Muffins With Vanilla Cream by A Virtual Vegan
- Gourmet Lazy Cabbage Rolls by Choose to Cook
- Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Cranberries and Pistachios by The Tofu Diaries
- Lebanese Semolina Pudding (Layali Lubnan) by Lands and Flavors
30 CommentsLeave a Reply
Ooh, these sound so much better than magic bars! Love the white chocolate – I’ve never done that before – didn’t realize how easy it is to make. Thanks for creating the VMBC! Loving it :-).
Thank you Jenny! 🙂 I’m so happy you took part in the VMBC – your rice pudding looks epic!
Great ingredient selection, Andrew. It was nice to work with some festive flavours. The variety was refreshing.
Thanks, Janet! The coconut curry dressing on your barley bowl is really creative – I want to try it! 🙂
Yum! These look delicious and festive! Thanks for such a fun challenge! I was THRILLED when I got the ingredient list because I already had a cranberry pistachio recipe in my head just needing to get out! 🙂
Biscotti! I’ve *never* made biscotti, that’s such a cool idea. Thanks, Jenn!
Thanks again Andrew for including me in this challenge! I had such a great time. I can’t wait to do it again! You’re recipe looks amazing.
Thank you, Amy! The salad looks great. Your peanut butter + Sriracha + coconut milk dressing is brilliant!
Andrew, magic cookie bars were my FAVORITE holiday treat as a kid. I HAVE to make these. Thanks to you and Sam for hosting. I’ll participate again in a flash!
Thank you for being a part of this, Casey! Magic Cookie Bars were my favorite too. These have the same kind of feeling but with really interesting flavors. I hope you like them! 🙂
Hi five buddy!! We did it! I am so impressed at everyone for completing this challenge. I also think it’s hilarious that we went for drizzles on our recipes! Great minds my friend…
Yeah! I’m so proud of everyone as well. Hah, you can never go wrong with a drizzle.
Thanks for being such a great co-host!
Thanks so much for organizing the challenge! It was a lot of fun!!
These bars look beyond amazing!
You’re very welcome, Leah! Thank you for participating.
Your recipe is so creative! I love that you also used pistachios for the cookies like I did for the crust. Those look insanely good!
Hey Andrew! Wow these look SO gorgeous, that magic topping is just so pretty. Thanks so much for putting on the VMBC I have loved being a part of it! 🙂
Thank you, Amy!
The pistachio cashew cheese is such a cool idea! I’ve been wanting to use pistachios in cheese for a while, I’ll have to try your recipe.
If I’m being honest, I’ve never been a fan of fruitcake and I’ve never even heard of Magic Cookie Bars but your creation here looks phenomenal! I love crumbly crusts and drizzles and all the nuts and berries, so I cannot wait to give this a try!
Thanks so much for creating the #VMBC! I had such a great time and I would love to participate again – cooking challenges are much more fun and exciting than they are challenging!
Haha, no one is a fan of fruit cake! 🙂 But these don’t really taste like a fruit cake anyways. Thank you for taking part in the challenge, Monique, I’m glad you had fun!
This challenge was so much fun & these bars look like total yum!!! Thanks again!
Thanks, Erin! I’m so glad you were able to be a part of it! 🙂
These look so good! Can you think of anything that would substitute for the cocoa butter? I can’t have any kind of chocolate but would love to make a version of these. Thanks!
Hmm, that might require a little bit of trial and error. The first thing that comes to mind is coconut oil, but the flavors might need some adjusting.
These looks seriously good – especially that sauce, yuuum! Thanks so much for organising the challenge, it’s been so much fun taking part and the choice of ingredients for us all was spot on 🙂
I’m glad you like the ingredients, Natalie! It took much deliberation to come up with the right ones 😉 Your curry looks delicious!
I love this idea! I can imagine these bars being served at a Christmas brunch or afternoon snack. Mmm..
Thank you for putting together the VMBC!
Thank you, Jackie! 🙂 I was so thrilled that you were a part of this, and your ice cream looks like the most incredible thing ever.
These really do look magical, Andrew! I’m loving that homemade white chocolate drizzle–so versatile. Thanks so much for organizing the VMBC!
Hey Omar! Thank you for being a part of the VMBC… especially because I would have otherwise been the only guy, haha 🙂
This looks great Andrew! Been wanting some sort of healthy bar that doesn’t contain oats or wheat flour! Can’t wait to make these!
Wow, your home-made white chocolate is just amazing, I have to try it!!! Thank you 🙂
The VMBC is like “Battle food” in France, a happy and creative event 😉