Are you looking for a healthy homemade sweet for your Valentine? I love the idea of those raw (or almost-raw) bars and bites made of nuts and dried fruits that you see everywhere. I’ve played around with a few recipes, and this is my latest favorite combination.
I love the rich, chocolatey flavor with just a kiss of orange. I also really like using cherries as the main fruit instead of just dates; they have that little bit of tangy interest, and they don’t get cloyingly sweet or overtake the recipe like dates sometimes seem to, for my tastebuds at least.
You can serve these several different ways. I cut them into shapes with small cookie cutters when I want to be cute, but you could also roll them into fancy truffle-shaped balls like Shayla or Sara, mold them into little “cupcakes” like Sonnet, or cut them into simple squares or “brownies” like Dana. Of course you can use them for an after-meal or afternoon treat, but in my opinion they are also healthy enough to become energy bars or part of a quick and easy breakfast.
Cherry-Cacao Nut & Seed Bites
4 large dried Medjool dates, pitted and torn into a few pieces
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
2 Tablespoons ground flaxseeds
2 Tablespoons hemp seeds
2 Tablespoons almond butter
1/2 teaspoon espresso grounds (I use decaf Illy)
1 fairly-well-packed teaspoon fresh orange zest
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon raw unsalted almonds
1/2 cup raw unsalted macademia nuts
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon dried sweetened cherries (we get ours at Costco, but if you’d prefer unsweetened my sister-in-law gets hers here)
finely ground sea salt to taste (optional) (I used 3 rounds of shakes around the processor bowl)
1. If your dates are hard, soak them for about 20 minutes in warm water or apple juice.
2. Combine all ingredients except the salt in a food processor. I like to put the powders on the bottom, because then I feel like less of them fly around and stick to the lid.
3. Process until everything is well-mixed, moist enough to stick together, and a texture that appeals to you. Taste and add more of any ingredient to your liking. Check to be sure there are not powders hanging out in the bottom of the process bowl, uncooperatively not blending with everyone else; stir them in if so. Add salt if you wish.
4. Decide how you want to shape and store your bites. I like to press my mixture into a glass Pyrex storage container with a plastic lid and store it in the freezer. That way, it is out of sight/out of mind and I don’t have to worry about it spoiling before I finish it, but I can easily cut a piece when I want one. The fruits and nuts don’t really freeze solid and soften up fairly quickly at room temperature. (That is how Brendan Brazier stores his energy bars.)
You could also roll your mixture into truffle-style balls and then coat them in cacao powder or chopped nuts. You could cut your mixture into bars or squares and serve them like brownies or wrap them individually in wax paper. Or, you could mold them into cute cupcake papers or your cupcake pan. However you’ll like them best! Store them in the fridge or freezer.