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Published: Monday, December 17, 2012, 2:29 p.m.

Grandma's Nanaimo Bars: A treat worth the indulgence

  • Grandma's recipe card for Nanaimo Bars.

    Rose McAvoy

    Grandma's recipe card for Nanaimo Bars.

Emotional eating during the holidays is not ALL bad.

When I allow myself one (or two) indulgences at a time, I enjoy the experience of the food and better remember it later. Most of the time I try to mindfully eat only what my body needs for nourishment. I really do enjoy eating so it is important to relish the times I choose to indulge in an extra special treat. Last week our Weight Watchers leader gave us a great tip for holiday treats. Her advice was: Keep a mental list of all the foods you have an emotional connection with, and as you go through the holiday season enjoy the foods you love -- once -- then check them off your list. For instance, if Aunt Annie's Pumpkin Pie is your absolute favorite and she always makes it for St. Nicholas Day. Look forward to having it then and say, "No, thank you very much" to offers of any other Pumpkin Pie that isn't Aunt Annie's. This technique may include saying "no, thank you very much" to foods not already on the list.

On Christmas Eve I will have an opportunity to eat several of the treats on my list and believe me, I will savor them. One of those treats are the Nanaimo Bars my Grandma is finishing up today. These are a staple on our family's dessert table at Christmas. Throughout my childhood I thought Nanaimo Bars were my Grandma's unique creation. I later learned that these decadent bars originated in the town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in Canada. There is a fun little article on Wikipedia if you'd like to read the history of Nanaimo Bars.

These bars are chocolatey-creamy-ooey-gooey-sticky-yummy goodness. I absolutely have an emotional association with eating them. The great thing is I can have a warm, fuzzy feeling with just a few bites, then I am good for another year. It is completely normal and okay to have nostalgic happy feelings tied to food, especially foods that only come out at certain times during the year. I simply make these foods part of my plan and practice moderation.

If we shutter ourselves away from tempting foods we may miss out on wonderful opportunities to enjoy our family and friends. As you go through this week of celebrations, be present in each moment. Choose what you will enjoy and enjoy what you choose!

Nanaimo Bars
From Our Lady of Second Helpings' Grandma's Recipe Card
Servings: 25 dainty squares
Prep & cooking time: 30 minutes plus time to chill between base and middle layers.


Base layer:
½ C. butter, softened
¼ C. white sugar
5 tbsp. Cocoa
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 egg
2 C. graham cracker crumbs
1 C. coconut
½ chopped walnuts


1. Place softened butter, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and egg into a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.
2. Stir well until butter is melted and mixture looks like a custard.
3. In a large bowl, combine crumbs, nuts, and coconut.
4. Add cooked ingredients to crumb mixture folding together until blended.
5. Press combined ingredients into a 9-inch pan
6. Chill 15 minutes to overnight.

Middle layer
¼ C. butter
3 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla instant pudding
2 C. powdered sugar


1. Mix together first three ingredients and fold in powdered sugar until completely blended.
2. Spread over chilled base and chill an additional 15 to 30 minutes.

Top layer:
1. When first two layers are chilled: Melt 4 squares of semi-sweet (or unsweetened) baking chocolate with 1 tbs butter.
2. Spread melted chocolate over the chilled layers.
3. Fully chill completed bars before cutting into squares.

Keep the bars cool until ready to serve.
Story tags » Cooking

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