Wrap these moist bars individually, or place them in a cookie tin between layers of wax or parchment paper.
1 3/4 cups finely chopped pitted dates (about 12 ounces)
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine dates, water, and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; cook 12 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. (Mixture will look like jam.) Stir in rind; cool completely.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Beat sugar and butter with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture (mixture will be crumbly). Press 2 cups flour mixture into bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Spread date mixture over flour mixture. Sprinkle with remaining flour mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
Yield: 20 servings (serving size: 1 bar)