start with the nuts. sometimes i use all raw almonds, sometimes i use 1/2 almonds and 1/2 sunflower seeds, sometimes i use 1/2 almonds and 1/2 peanuts or cashews or walnuts or pecans...it really depends on the end flavor you are going for and the dried fruit with which you will be mixing. grind the nuts until they are a fine powder. this step will start out very noisy, but will quiet down as the nuts are processed. pour the nuts into a bowl.
the next thing to do is the dates and dried fruit. make sure your dates are pitted or you will spend a long time cutting open dates and removing the pits. it will be the pits. (ba-dump-bum, chhh!) know that even if you buy pitted dates there is the occasional pit. your blade will find it and your food processor will let you know when this happens (it will stop spinning and make an awful noise). just stop the machine, remove the lid (unplug if you don't have a safety stop, i.e. mine won't run with the lid off), and carefully move back the dates to expose the blade and stuck pit. it will always be the top blade (i.e. the one that doesn't run along the bottom of the bowl) and will always be near the edge of the bowl. press the pit away from the blade and you can continue processing. you are going for a very fine, nearly pureed consistency.
once the fruit is ground, add the nuts back to the food processor and let everything mix together. if you find after a few minutes that the mixture is not holding together, you can add a little vanilla, water, or juice...a teaspoon or less at a time is more than enough.
at this point i like to use my largest cookie scoop (1/4 C - 1/3 C size) and snack size resealable baggies. put a scoop in the bag, zip closed most of the way, push out the air, and continue to close. mash into a bar shape and you're good to go. alternatively you can press the whole mixture into a pan, cut, and then wrap the bars in plastic. these are also very good made with a smaller cookie scoop into "energy balls" and stored in a container with plastic or waxed paper between the layers.
these do best stored in the refrigerator...the coolness helps to solidify the bars, making them easier to eat. i buy 3-5 pounds of pitted dates from the bulk bin and make as many bars as i can, determining the order i make them in so i can do the whole process from start to finish without having to wash my food processor. ;)
our favorites include:
dates, almonds, apricots
dates, almonds and peanuts, raisins...and a little cocoa powder (have to add vanilla for this one)
dates, pistachios, and dried cranberries
dates, almonds and sunflower seeds, orange dried cranberries
dates, almonds and walnuts, mixed berries
dates, almonds, wild blueberries and raisins
the combinations are endless. you can add chocolate chips to the mix if you want. that's very good, but we are typically eliminating extra sugar at every turn. ;)