Preheat oven to 350°. Use a non-stick 8" x 8" baking pan or line with parchment paper.
To soften the dates, place them in a small dish with 1 tablespoon of water in the microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds.
To a large food processor, add the dates (and any liquid), beans, oats, cocoa powder, applesauce, almond butter, coconut sugar, vanilla extract, baking powder and salt. Blend well until completely mixed, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. You want a creamy mixture, with no chewy chunks of oats or beans.
Stir in the chocolate chips, but DO NOT BLEND. (I stir them right in the food processor, just be careful not to get brownie mix in the whole in the center!)
Spread the brownie mix evenly in the pan and place in the oven. Cook, uncovered, 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. (If the toothpick hits a chocolate chip, it will come out coated with melted chocolate! Check a different spot.) If they're a bit soft after cooling, they will firm up over time or place them in the fridge.
To make the frosting:
Place the cashews, yogurt, maple syrup, peppermint extract (or flavor) and strawberries in a high speed blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender as needed. This can take several minutes.
You can serve as is, but I recommend placing the frosting in fridge for about 1 hour to firm up.
Spread a generous layer of frosting over brownies, ideally, just before eating. Store any extra frosting or frosted brownies in the fridge. See notes.
Optional: If desired, top with crushed peppermint candies or candy canes JUST BEFORE EATING - SEE NOTES. (Do not use if you want to keep the recipe refined-sugar free.)
I like to frost these brownies as I eat them, rather than frosting the entire batch at once. The cashew frosting is pretty moist, so the frosted brownies tend to get a bit soggy over time.
ALSO, PLEASE NOTE: The candy topping should be added JUST BEFORE EATING, as it will start melting into the cashew frosting after about 10-15 minutes. (The moister your frosting, the faster the candy melts!)
The frosting will get firmer after refrigeration. I make the frosting first, then keep it in the fridge while I'm making the brownies.
The frosting can be frozen and will become firmer after freezing. I like to make a double batch of frosting and store half in the freezer.