Bright and colorful, these no-bake mini bites look indulgent, yet the inside reveals a much more wholesome story. The tang of dried fruit and the bitter depth of cacao pair perfectly with nuts and sticky, sweet dates. These are endlessly adaptable, so add in your favorite nuts, seeds and dried fruits, including ginger and coconut, tea and dried edible flowers. Or perhaps add a surprise teaspoonful of jam in the center and roll in peanut powder for PB and J bites.
Look for Medjool dates, which have a deep, complex flavor, in the dried fruit or produce section of your local supermarket. If you’re into mail-ordering, Rancho Meladuco Date Farm in California grows and ships some of the freshest, most exquisite dates you’ll ever taste. And look for raw cacao nibs/powder as well as freeze-dried fruit in the health food or snack section. I like to buy the nibs and grind them myself in a spice/coffee grinder but you can also buy raw cacao powder. Try stirring some into an espresso or add some nibs to pancake batter; sprinkle on top of ice cream or yogurt for a bittersweet kick.
Pack these addictive treats for a quick pick-me-up post-hike or post-ski, or serve as part of a cheese and fruit course, or enjoy with afternoon tea or coffee. Or just imagine them, as one taster said, “as a healthy doughnut-hole alternative.”
Raw date-nut bites
Makes about 30 bites
18 Medjool dates, pitted
1 cup raw cacao powder (or cacao nibs to grind)
1 ½ cups pecans, Marcona almonds, or walnuts (215g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (or tart cherries or raisins)
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 cup finely chopped pistachios
Optional: dried rose petals; peanut butter powder; Matcha powder; crushed freeze-dried fruit
Remove any brown paper-like tips and the pits from dates and give them a rough chop. Toss into the bowl of a food processor; add cacao powder (or grind cacao nibs in a spice/coffee grinder and add). Pulse a few times to chop dates into small pieces. Add pecans (or other nut) to the dates; pulse a few seconds to combine. Add vanilla, puffed brown rice, 1/2 cup cool water, 1 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit), and pinch of salt. Mix to combine until finely chopped; add 1/2 cup coconut and remaining 1/2 cup dried cranberries and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped. If mixture gets stuck in the processor, remove to a bowl and fold in coconut and remaining dried fruit. And blend with hands or a silicone spatula.
Finely chop pistachios and place on a large plate or on a half sheet pan. Place any other optional ingredients next to pistachios. Using hands, take teaspoon-sized portions of date-nut mixture and roll quickly to form small, bite-sized balls. Roll in crushed nuts and/or in any of the other optional ingredients. Cover and chill in fridge at least two hours before enjoying. Store, in an airtight container, up to five days in fridge, or freeze up to one month. If they get too moist, refresh them by gently squeezing and rerolling in some crushed nuts or powdered fruit or tea or peanut butter.