Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Coconut Almond Bites


These delightful little almond-coconut bites are quite the treat. They're sweet enough to eat for dessert, but healthy enough to pop for breakfast too. There's protein and monounsaturated fat in the almond butter, the dates bring in some great potassium, and of course coconut is one of those modern "Superfoods," said to be good for everything from getting a quick burst of energy, to controlling sugar cravings. I just happen to love coconut. I'd eat it even if it was as unhealthy as a Snickers bar. 


Luckily, coconut isn't as unhealthy as a Snickers bar or I'd need to run a lot further every morning. Running was the inspiration for these tasty little almond-coconut bites. As of last week I've officially been running in the mornings for 6 months.  I wake up in the morning, do a few stretches, drink a glass of water, and put on my running clothes. I'm usually jogging along the East River before I've even been awake for thirty minutes. The cool air coming off the river and the lovely views of Brooklyn across the water help me shake off any remaining sleepiness. 


I've never been a breakfast person, but since I started running I've realized I may need to change that. If I sleep in and get started late, or run for more than a few miles my stomach starts growling audibly as I jog along, and I know I need to start getting some fuel in me before a long run. But I'm just not hungry at first when I wake up. And I didn't want to mess around cooking and running before work. That's where these almond bites come in. 


When I was a kid I got the idea to make frozen peanut butter-honey balls from a tv show on PBS.  You simply mixed together honey and peanut butter, globbed it onto a plate in blobs, and froze it. Eventually I improved on this model by adding oats, which allowed me to roll the dough into balls. I revisited this recipe when I came up with these balls. Only, I wanted to find a way to use healthier almond butter, and to replace the oats with something gluten free, to make this a more accessible recipe. 


I swapped in almond butter, dates to make it a bit stiffer and add natural caramel-y sweetness, and coconut in place of the oats, for a way more nutritious snack. Then I started with the add-ins. The batch I photographed has dried unsweetened tart cherries, but I've also used chocolate chips, raisins, and shelled sunflowers seed with great success.


If you keep these in the fridge they'll be softer, like a nut butter truffle (but will still hold their shape), if you pop them in the fridge they'll freeze up into a lovely frozen confection. I love the consistency of frozen nut butter. Firm, but still soft enough to easily bite. 


I like to grab one or two of these and munch them before I run for a bit of energy and fuel to carry me through, and when I return I have another one or two, as a post-workout snack before heading to work. I also like to pop one in my mouth when I come home from work, and maybe two or three for a late night dessert while S and I watch TV in the evening.  They're good any time of day.
Enjoy! 



Coconut Almond Bites

1 C Dates
1 C Almond Butter (chunky or smooth)
1 Tbsp Coconut Butter (or coconut oil)
3/4 C Shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp Honey

Optional:
2/3 C dried unsweetened cherries or other dried fruit
or
2/3 C chocolate chips
or
2/3 C hulled sunflower seeds

If your dates are a bit dry, soak them in water for an hour or two, if they're pretty moist skip the soak. Pit the dates, and add them to a food processor, process on high for 1 minute, add the coconut butter (or oil) and process again, until a thick sticky paste forms. Dump the date paste into a bowl.

Add the almond butter, honey, and vanilla to the bowl of dates and mix well until thoroughly combined. Add the coconut flakes and mix again until the coconut flakes are mixed in and the dough begins to clump up. Mix in any of the add ins. I used dried tart cherries.

If your mixture is too sticky, add more coconut, if it's too dry add more almond butter. It should stick together on it's own, but be dry enough that you can pick up a clump of it. Refrigerate the mixture for 1 hour (this step can be skipped but your balls may end up a bit flat on one side).

Remove from refrigerator after 1 hour and roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place in a tupperware with parchment paper between layers of balls and chill for at least 1 hour. Chill in the freezer if you'd like frozen, firm balls. Chill in the fridge if you'd like softer, more truffle-like balls.
Enjoy!




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