Tuesday, March 17, 2009

City Kitchen Chronicles: Date Coconut Balls

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

In my years as a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, I’ve done a lot of vegan cooking. It’s often cheaper, and I love the creativity involved. Folks on “special” diets in general naturally have to get creative in their cooking. I’m not giving up eggs any time soon (for breakfast or in baking), but openmindedness has brought me to so many great recipes.

There seems to be a certain solidarity among folks with special diets. Sure, there are probably some crazy vegans who thing lacto-ovo vegetarians are unprincipled, or raw foodists who think vegans are killing themselves with cooking, but for the most part there’s a lot of understanding – gluten-free eaters can find especially compassionate waiters at vegan restaurants, whole food-ists understand the intricacies of raw eating, etc.

There’s also great cross-polination among recipes. I certainly wasn’t looking for raw recipies when I came across this one, nor vegan, gluten-free, or kosher for Passover, but here it is.

Before you run away, terrified of crazy person health food, let me say two things:
  1. I’ve fed this dish to meat-eating, non-health-foodie friends, and they love it.
  2. It’s cookies.
And tasty cookies at that.

Date Coconut Balls
Makes approx 30 balls
Adapted from suite101.com

1 c raw (untoasted) almonds
1 c plump dates (a generous cup)
3/4 c unsweetened shredded coconut, divided
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 c mini chocolate chips (optional)

0) Optional: pre-soak the dates and almonds in cold water. Almonds: a few hours; dates: 15-30 minutes.

1) Food-process the almonds to small crumbs. (If you have a tiny single-person food processor, you may have to do this in batches.)

2) Add a couple of dates and process again, until combined. Repeat until dates are gone.

3) Add vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. The mixture may look dry and breadcrummy, but it should eventually make a ball. If this doesn't happen, add a couple more dates.

4) In a medium bowl, combine date mix, chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup coconut. Stir thoroughly.

5) To a separate bowl or small dish, add remaining 1/4 cup coconut. With your hands, mold dough into 1-inch balls. Then, roll them around the coconut until coated. 

6) Place balls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. (Or silpat. Or aluminum foil.) Chill in freezer several hours, until firm. "Remove from freezer and serve thawed."

(Note from Suite 101: "You can store these in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer. They taste best when cold, but not frozen.")

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Piece
83 calories, 5 g fat, $0.18

1 c raw almonds: 821 calories, 72 g fat, $1.75
1 c plump dates: 628 calories, 0.3 g fat, $2.00
3/4 c unsweetened shredded coconut, divided: 480 calories, 44 g fat, $0.75
1/2 t vanilla extract: 6 calories, 0 g fat, $0.06
1/2 t cinnamon: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
pinch of salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
1/2 c mini chocolate chips: 560 calories, 32 g fat, $0.80
TOTAL: 2495 calories, 148.3 g fat, $5.39
PER SERVING (TOTAL/30): 83 calories, 5 g fat, $0.18


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