This is also one of the few recipes that I made up entirely myself. Er, that is, after I read the ingredients on a few Larabars. . . But I was more recently inspired to try this idea because yesterday Whole Foods had a version of this to taste at their Thanksgiving booth. Their date balls were so loaded with cocoa powder that they tasted like chocolate truffles.
I just made my very first batch of this stuff, and holy cow, this is going to be a staple in our house.
Date Nut Treats, i.e. Date Nut Energy Bars
Dates are so full of sugar that they are practically candy all by themselves. But even better, when chopped up, they turn into a wonderful sticky mess that can be used to bind together all sorts of delicious things. The best part is that the results can either be served up as fancy cookies, or eaten as a snack in place of a pre-packaged energy bar – because, after all, it's fruit and nuts! Pricy commercial versions of this, such as Larabars, are sold at high-end grocery stores.
A food processor would be useful if you wish to make large quantities of date nut treats. However, it's quick and easy to make in small batches with nothing more than a cutting board and a chef's knife. And since no actual cooking is required, it's a fun recipe to make with small children.
(optional) chocolate chips, raisins or other dried fruit
(optional) peanut butter, almond butter, or other nut butter
(optional) additional nuts
(optional) Pumpkin Pie spices (1.05), or other spices or flavors that go well with sweet things, such as cardamom, mint, or vanilla
(optional) baking cocoa, powdered sugar, white or brown sugar, or powdered hot chocolate mix
Chop up equal quantities of dates and nuts. When the dates are minced enough that they stick to every surface, use your (very clean!) hands to squish the nuts and the dates together. Continue to chop the mixture if you prefer a more smooth texture.
Add any optional dried fruit, chocolate chips, and/or additional nuts that you like, and work them into the gooey mass. You may want to chop these things a bit if they are large – but you can chop the mass of gooey stuff if you decide the lumps are too large after adding them. For more nutty goodness, add spoonfuls of nut butter. If you want chocolatey balls, you can knead baking cocoa into the mix. Dates plus baking cocoa make a lovely dark chocolate flavor without the need for any additional added sugar.
Finally, pinch off marble-sized quantities of the mixture, roll into balls, and roll these balls in baking cocoa, powdered sugar, white or brown sugar, or powdered hot chocolate mix. This will prevent the balls from sticking together. Baking cocoa is the most healthful option if you are trying to minimize the sugar in your treats.
Alternatively, squash the mixture flat onto a cutting board, and cut it into bars. You can then dust them with the optional powder, or not, as you like. Then if you want portable treats for lunchboxes, you can wrap the bars individually in parchment paper.
Store these treats in the refrigerator for up to a week, or for longer in the freezer.