Tag Archive for Vegan Date Squares.

My Mom’s Date Squares

About a year ago, I came into possession of my mom’s recipe box. Now, I lost my mom to cancer 12 years ago, so this is somewhat of a treasure to me.

Not just because these are recipes I remember her making (and me loving), but also because many of them are in her handwriting. The cards are frayed and stained and obviously well-used.

I previously shared an accidentally vegan recipe I found in this box of my mom’s recipes called Wacky Cake, but today I want to share another one.

My mom had a few favourite desserts. She loved rice pudding, and classic cookies like peanut butter and chocolate chip. But she also made killer date squares.

Date Squares

She didn’t call them date squares, though, she called them Matrimony or Matrimono Bars.

Nobody seems to quite know the exact origins or history of this recipe, except that it probably originated in Canada, quite possibly Newfoundland, and is maybe Scottish in its heritage (because of the oats?). Today everyone just calls them Date Squares. But I’m curious about where the “matrimony” connection comes in? Were they served at weddings? Do the layers have some kind of symbolic significance of two people coming together to be one? No idea, though the name seems to be regional in its origin and my mom was born on, and grew up in, the Prairies.

But here is the card in my mom’s writing….errrr typing? One thing you’ll notice is there are no directions. This is pretty typical of most of her recipes. She made these so many times, she didn’t need to be reminded of how to make them, just the quantities of ingredients. I have included the directions below.

Mom's date squares recipe card

You’ll notice that this recipe is also accidentally vegan.

By the way, when I made these and distributed them amongst my neighbours for taste-testing, they were pronounced the best date squares they’d ever had, so… thanks, mom.

My Mom’s Date Squares

Ingredients

  • 1 cup margarine/vegan butter/regular butter (if you’re not vegan)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Method

  1. Grease a square 8″ or 9″ cake pan well, or line with parchment, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown sugar and 1 teaspoon each of salt and baking soda.
  3. Melt the butter and pour it over the dry ingredients. Toss just until combined. Dump about half of the mixture into the pan and press it down to make an even layer.
  4. In a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat, place the dates, water, and remaining baking soda and salt and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the dates are softened. Mash them up a bunch with the back of a spoon to make them a bit smoother. Pour this date mixture overtop of your base layer in the pan.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the date layer and press it down lightly.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Vegan Date Squares

Grief is a weird animal. 

It’s been eleven years since I lost my mom… a lifetime, almost. Sometimes, when I tell people that I lost my mom to cancer, they say “oh, I’m sorry!” and I get it, that’s a natural reaction. 

I usually brush it off. It has been, after all, a long time. More than a decade. And I did a bunch of therapy, which was really good. 

And mostly, it’s okay. I’m happy, my life is good, and I don’t think about her too much. 

But Mother’s Day is one of those times that I do. How can you not? 

Vegan Date Squares Recipe

The weirdest thing is, I have discovered myself craving certain foods leading up to days that could be emotionally loaded. Like earlier this year, in February, I had the weirdest, obscure craving for pea soup. It’s not something I would normally crave, but crave it I did. I was halfway though making a pot of pea soup when I remembered that it was one of her faves. She made giant pots of it with hamhocks gently bubbling in a green sea. 

My inexplicable craving was actually a longing to be close to my mom, but it played itself out in food. 

More recently, just before Mother’s Day, I had a really strong craving for date squares. Another thing my mom made all the time, and loved. She called them “Matrimony Squares,” though. 

Nobody quite knows where the name came from, but they were popular on the Prairies, where my mom grew up. Supposedly the two layers “sandwiched” together represent marriage. 

Most people today just call them Date Squares, and honestly, they are a really simple and tasty treat. What I love about these is that they require very little processed sugar, a few simple ingredients, and almost no technique. 

They are a simple, rustic, comforting dessert. 

My mom, of course, made these with butter, but I’ve substituted coconut oil, which works great. 

Date Squares Recipe

Vegan Date Squares

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup oats (the quick cooking kind work better here)
  • ½ cup +2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups pitted dates, chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • ½ tsp baking soda

Method

  1. Mix together the flour, oats and brown sugar, then add in the melted coconut oil and mix everything together, using your hands if need be. 
  2. Line a square baking pan with parchment, or grease it well. Dump about half of the crumble mixture into the bottom of the pan, and then press it down firmly with your hands. 
  3. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, place the dates, water and baking soda. Stir well, and bring up to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to low. Allow the dates to cook and soften, stirring occasionally, until they become a jam-like consistency. Turn off the heat and place to the side to cool a little. 
  4. Scrape the date mixture onto the bottom crumble layer in the pan, and then smooth overtop in an even layer. 
  5. Sprinkle the remaining crumble mixture over top and scatter it around so that it coats the date layer evenly. You don’t need to press it down. 
  6. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden. 
  7. Allow to cool, then cut into squares. 

 

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