I was sitting at a neighborhood block party across from a tatted dude who was munching on one of my balls. He was really enjoying it so I decided that was a good time to tell him that the dessert I brought was raw, vegan, and Paleo. "Really," he said, his mouth full of sweet, salty goodness, "I thought it was cookie dough!" No, I don't follow any of those eating regimens. I just know a good recipe when I find one. And this one is so good! I've had a lot of social gatherings lately where I either wanted to share love through food or was tasked with bringing a dessert. Either way, these balls, nicknamed Debs by my cousin (date energy balls) deliver! They are immensely satisfying, especially for your sweet tooth despite having no added sugar. It's a treat you can feel good about eating and giving to your kids and sharing with your friends! And dear goodness are they easy to make. Do I hear a hallelujah?!
So there are lots of recipes on the web for date balls and such. However, some were too salty. Others had way too much coconut oil in them (my hands were very soft after rolling those). This recipe represents my happy medium. It has enough salt to create the cookie dough effect without making you desert thirsty. There's enough coconut oil to bind them together without creating a mess or an unpleasant mouthfeel.
Just know there are some variations and is some room to play here and have fun. You could roll them in cacao. You could embed a high quality very dark chocolate chip in the middle as a delicious (and full of antioxidants) surprise. You could coat them in unsweetened toasted coconut.
Makes 24-27 balls of goodness
2 cups whole Medjool dates, not pitted (available at Trader Joe's and sometimes Costco)
2 cups pecan pieces (or almonds or walnuts)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (you can find an organic version at Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons organic virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (check the label to make sure it's gluten free)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Equipment: 7-cup capacity or larger food processor, baking sheet (that you can put in the freezer)
This is where I tell you to measure the whole dates in a two cup liquid measuring cup (like this one). Normally, you would never measure a dry ingredient in a liquid cup, but in this case it led to the best outcome in recipe testing. It can be slightly above the 2-cup line. Then pit the dates and remove the small disk at the top of the date that is not good eats. Set aside.
Fit your food processor with the S-blade. Add the pecans and coconut to the food processor. Pulse in 10 second bursts until they are fine crumbs but not nut butter. Add the remaining ingredients and process until a sticky dough forms. Transfer the dough into a bowl as it's easier to work from a bowl than the food processor itself.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon, place a heaping scoop of dough in your hand. Roll into a ball and place on the baking sheet. Repeat until you have used all the dough. You'll have five rows of five balls or six rows of four balls, etc.
If you are going to coat the balls in cacao or coconut, do that now before the next step.
Create a flat space in your freezer, and freeze the balls for one hour. From here, I like to put the balls in candy wrappers, and store either in the refrigerator or in the freezer. They'll keep in the fridge for up to one week or in your freezer for one month.
Nutritional awesomeness: Dates are loaded with anti-oxidants and other good for you vitamins and minerals, are considered low glycemic, and have a reputation for being the Viagra of Saudi Arabia (ahem and bada bing bada boom!). If you want more information about the health benefits of dates, check out this article, and this one, and also this one. Coconut is an excellent source of manganese. Coconut oil is anti-viral and raises your good cholesterol (HDL). However, use in moderation because it can also raise your bad cholesterol (LDL).