Have you ever tried a no-added sugar challenge? A few months back, we decided to do one for 30-days (and by “we” I mean Bry got roped into doing this with me). One thing you’ll notice as the blog continues, is I’m really trying to focus on making more foods from scratch, and this sugar-challenge was our first step. While some diet challenges eliminate sugar all-together, I believe in supporting a balanced diet, which includes natural sources of sugar – more on this in a later post – so the only sources of sugar we ate were fruits, starchy vegetables and unsweetened Greek yogurt. While it wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be – it seems like added sugar is in everything – these date bites got us through it and have become a staple in our diets.
Ever since our 30-day challenge, I’ve been playing around with the base recipe to get it just right as well as coming up with new flavor combinations: Brownie Batter, Snickerdoodle, and Matcha Green Tea (this last one has been my jam recently, especially with St. Patrick’s Day this week).
Unless you’re one of those people who can go hours upon hours without getting hungry, chances are you reach for a snack at some point during the day. Whether it’s grabbing something quick before heading out the door in the morning, fueling up before a workout, or trying to keep yourself from getting too hangry at the 3-6pm stretch before dinner time, most of us need more than just 3 meals a day and these bites are a perfect solution. Need convincing? Here are 4 reasons to get your food processor out and start snacking:
- For the Health-Conscious: If you have a snack bar with you right now, do me a favor and flip it over. Now skip over the nutrition facts – after all, calories aren’t everything – and check out the ingredient list. Unless you have one of the few bars out there with minimal ingredients (if this is you, please skip down to reason 3), the list goes on and on, likely with lots of added sugars and, my favorite, “natural” flavors – no thanks. These bites contain only 2 basic ingredients – dates and cashews – plus any additional ingredients you feel inspired to add in (see reason 4).
- For the Time-Conscious: If you have a food processor, these bars take only minutes to make. While ideally you would let the dates soak for 10 minutes in hot water to soften, when short on time you can always blend the dates and just add 1-2 tablespoons of warm water. So assuming you’re short on time, between pulsing the cashews, adding in the dates + water, and rolling them into balls (or bars) – these should take at most 5 minutes. Yes, they take 15 minutes to set in the freezer afterwards, but once they’re good to go, you can store them in a sealable container for up to 2 months in the freezer. So, in the morning, all you have to do is throw one or two in a container and you’re ready to head out the door for the day.
- For the Budget-Conscious: These bites were inspired by my favorite snack bar company: Larabar. As with this recipe, Larabars contain minimal ingredients and are still in my top 3 go-to choices if I’m traveling and forgot to pack my own snacks. So then why did I start making my own? Budget. Larabars cost on average $1.50/bar. By buying cashew pieces (tip: cashew pieces tend to be cheaper than whole cashews) and pitted dates in bulk online, it costs just $0.45 for two energy bites (an equivalent to 1 Larabar). Much cheaper!
- For the Flavor-Conscious: Okay, so there’s no numbers I can persuade you with here. . .except for the infinite number of flavor combinations just waiting to be tried – got ya 😉 But in all seriousness, my favorite part of this recipe is how creative you can get with flavor combinations. You have complete control over how these taste, so make them as chocolately, cinnimony, salty, matcha-y as you want! You can also sub in other type of nuts to change up both taste and texture.
Okay, now that you’re convinced, on to the recipe! The foundation of these bites is very simple: cashews + dates. I recommend using a kitchen scale to measure out these ingredients, but I did include approximate amounts in case you only have access to measuring cups.
Start by measuring out 81 grams of whole, pitted dates (about 1 packed cup or 12-13 large dates). If your dates have pits it’s very important to remove them before throwing in the food processor (and do not put down the garbage disposal . . . I’ve learn from my mistakes).
Place dates in bowl of hot water and let soak for 10 minutes. As stated above, if you are short on time you can skip this step and add an extra 1-2 tablespoons of warm water when pulsing.
While dates soak, measure out 140 grams of cashew pieces (about 1 cup) and place in food processor. Pulse until about pebbles-sized (you don’t want it to look like powder).
Add in dates and any extra ingredients you would like (3 mix-in ideas below). Pulse until well-combined and mixture feels paste-like. If the mix is not holding together well, add in 1 tsp of water at a time and pulse until desired consistency is achieved (the picture below is for the Matcha Green Tea Bites)
Roll mixture into balls and place on a foil-lined baking sheet a few inches apart.
Place baking sheet in freezer and let set for 15 minutes. I recommend storing date bites in a closed container in the freezer that way you can easily grab one to go in the morning and by the afternoon its soft, but not falling apart. These keep for at least 2 months in the freezer (we’ve always eaten them within two months, so they may even keep for longer).
While the base recipe is good, I have 3 flavor combinations that are even better: Brownie Batter, Snickerdoodle, and Matcha Green Tea. Check out the recipes below! But before you do, here’s a toast to the infinite flavor combinations just waiting to be eaten!
Quick note on dates: while some people avoid dates due to their high natural sugar content, current research has found that dates actually have a low glycemic index. Translation: while there is natural sugar in dates, they also are a good source of fiber, which helps to slow the digestion and absorption of sugar into the blood stream and prevents the spike in blood sugar that we often associate with high sugar foods. Still, if you are trying to watch your blood sugar for medical reasons, keep to just 1-2 bites per snack.
- 81-g Whole, pitted Dates (about 1 cup packed or 12-13 large dates)
- 140-g Cashew Pieces (about 1 cup) - unsalted
- Salt to taste (optional)
- Base recipe
- 2 heaping tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- Base recipe
- 1/4 tsp ground Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Base recipe
- 1 tsp Matcha Powder
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/8 tsp Salt
- Place dates in bowl of hot water and let soak for 10 minutes.
- While dates soak, place cashews in food processor. Pulse until about pebbles-sized (you don’t want it to look like powder).
- Add in dates. Pulse until well-combined and mixture feels paste-like. If the mix is not holding together well, add in 1 tsp of water at a time and pulse until desired consistency is achieved.
- Roll mixture into balls and place on a foil-lined baking sheet a few inches apart.
- Place baking sheet in freezer and let set for 15 minutes. I recommend storing energy bites in a closed container in the freezer that way you can easily grab one to go in the morning and by the afternoon its soft, but not falling apart. These keep for at least 2 months in the freezer (we’ve always eaten them within two months, so they may even keep for longer).
- Follow above instructions.
- When time to add dates, add in salt and cocoa powder. I've found that these definitely need the extra 1-3 teaspoons of warm water in order for the mix to stick together well.
- Continue following Base Recipe directions.
- Follow Base Recipe directions and add in the extra ingredients when you add in the dates.
Nutrition per bite: 85 calories, 4 g fat, 14 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 2 g protein