Vegan Aspirations in Holiday Recipes- Nanaimo Bars


It isn’t Christmas without Nanaimo bars, and they are sooooo easy to veganize. I’ve seen a few recipes online that use things like vanilla pudding, but I am here to tell you that THIS is the original recipe for Nanaimo bars (named for the city in British Columbia where I now work- go figure). I grew up in the 1960’s helping my Mom to make big batches of these every year for Christmas. Most everyone we knew in Alberta had the recipe- they were a brand new sensation and people only made them at Christmas because they were so rich and a bit expensive to make in those days. Now you can buy them year-round in many varieties, made with all sorts of chemicals and odd ingredients. But the store bought ones do not taste remotely like the real thing, so do yourself a favour and make a batch of these instead.

As a teen in the early seventies, I re-wrote the recipe in my own notebook. I still work off the same handwritten recipe, and this year my daughter suddenly became curious about whose handwriting it was. She found it highly amusing to learn that it was mine, and that teen girls would spend hours practicing handwriting to find a style to call their very own. I was very proud of my style at that time- backhand to show just the right amount of rebelliousness, with circles instead of dots for femininity. My handwriting evolved, and kids rarely write anything by hand anymore. But Nanaimo bars are still here.


And here is the veganized version (in much easier to read type):

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer:
– 1/2 cup vegan butter-flavoured spread
– 1/4 cup brown sugar
– 3 Tablespoons cocoa
– 1 flax egg
– 2 cups graham wafer crumbs
– 1 cup coconut
– 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Mix ingredients, press into a 9 inch square pan and chill for 1/2 hour.


Middle Layer:
– 2 cups icing sugar
– 1/4 cup vegan butter flavoured spread
– 1/4 cup (or less) soymilk
– 2 tablespoons custard powder (I use Bird’s- it’s vegan and gives a bright yellow colour)

Combine, beat until smooth and fluffy, and then spread on bottom layer. Put back in fridge to chill while you make top layer.


Top Layer:
– 1/2-3/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips or pieces (sweetened)
– 1 tablespoon of vegan spread or canola oil

Melt together and spread over the top. Cool until all layers are nicely set, and then cut yourself a square for a taste of Christmas in Canada. Best savoured with a hot drink after playing in the snow.

p.s. As children we discovered that Nanaimo bars are also divine frozen. My poor Mom used to try and bake ahead in bulk and freeze some of her baking to save for Christmas entertaining. One year my younger sister and I, left to our own devices, discovered the stash of Nanaimo bars in the freezer and pilfered some to eat, frozen, in the barn. A guilty pleasure indeed.



What I Miss About Meat (And What I Do About It)

The other day I encountered an unexpected pleasure that made me think about some of the inconveniences of eating a meat-free diet. I am an itinerant counsellor for a school district, and school staffs often arrange potluck lunch days for their celebrations. If I happen to be in their school on one of those days, I am usually kindly asked to join them for lunch. However, typically most of the dishes are meat-based so they are out for me.

But the other day a school’s staff asked me to join them for their potluck salad and dessert bar lunch! Although I love my FITR salads, it can sometimes be hard to sit among all the great smells and sights of staff potlucks and eat a cold salad. It was such a treat to see all the delicious fruits and veggies made into colourful dishes, and I even found a source for a new mouthwatering quinoa salad recipe (thanks Cindi!). In retrospect, I realized it was the first time that I felt really “part of” the staff celebrations, and that led me to think of some of the other things I miss about eating meat.

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