Cacao Nut Butter Truffles

Makes 18-20 truffles

chocolate nut butter truffles

These have waited a while to make it to the blog and my apologies for those who have been waiting!  My first excuse is that they’ve hardly lasted long enough for me to get a decent picture. My second excuse is that kombucha had been waiting a while, too. Lastly, we left the desert for the summer and since arriving back in the Hudson Valley we’ve been enjoying family time and the region’s summer bounty.

But, we’re here now and these delicious morsels are getting impatient to make their debut!

This recipe comes in handy in 2 major ways for me. They are a quick and easy yet presentable goody I can whip up for play dates and other gatherings.  More importantly, they’re a great, homemade sweet that I feel good enough about to give to Claire.  I am well aware that I will not be able to control everything that goes into her mouth and little body, especially as she gets older, bolder, and sees what her peers are up to.  For the time being however, I can control bit by bit the sweets and treats she chooses and therefore minimize as much as possible her exposure to unrefined products, dyes and other chemicals and worse yet, GMOs.

So, what is it about these truffles that make me feel so good?  There are 3 short, sweet and simple answers:  Cacao, Coconut, and Nut Butter (here, cashew butter, but almond butter and peanut butter have been equally, deliciously successful).

Cacao – Its history stems from South America and Mexico and their ancient cultures knew then what science is now confirming.  Raw cacao is an incredible source of antioxidants.  It is rich in minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc and manganese and in Vitamins A, C, E, and some B vitamins.  As if that weren’t enough, the theobromine in cacao, a diuretic that aids in expelling toxins, is also a mood enhancer.  That’s why you feel happy after you eat chocolate.  Seratonin gets a boost, you get the happies.  Oh, and in some circles it is considered an anti-aging food and a smart food¹.  I’m personally not going to argue with that.

Coconut –  Shredded coconut is the actual meat of the coconut and it is full of fiber (gut health galore), and minerals such as potassium, iron, manganese, and selenium.  These all serve different functions of the body ranging from bone development, nerve and muscle function and regulating blood pressure.  Coconut’s true claim to fame however, is its medium chain fatty acids (MCT). Fat, as you may now know, is a friend and the saturated fat in coconut is actually GOOD for you and your brain.  It’s good for joint and nerve function and may even reduce triglyceride levels.  We’ve been taught fat is bad, but not all fat is created equal and this fat is one of those good ones.

Cashew Butter – Cashews’ fatty acids (most of which are unsaturated) contain oleic acid, the same found in olive oil, and is good, good, good for cardiovascular health.  Cashews also contain minerals such as copper and magnesium and are also particularly high in antioxidants.  And if you’re looking to lose inches (or centimeters…however you roll) adding nuts and their butters to your diet would be a big help.

Aren’t you impressed with the über health benefits of this little truffle?  That’s only the half of it…wait till you taste it!

Cacao Nut Butter Truffles

*adapted from Food 52 contributor (It’s a great site with great ideas and once I saw this one I had to try it!)

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 C dark chocolate (the darker the better)
  • 1/2 C nut butter (I used Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter)
  • 1/4 C + 1 T brown rice syrup OR maple syrup OR honey
  • 1 T coconut butter (optional)
  • 2 T cacao powder
  • 1T vanilla extract
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t sea salt (I used Himalayan Rock Salt because it was all I had.)
  • 1 1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 C finely chopped nuts (for rolling truffles)

To make:

  1. Combine all ingredients, except shredded coconut, in a sauce pan and heat over low-medium heat, stir to blend well.
  2. When the mixture is melted, remove from heat and mix in 1 C of shredded coconut. Let mixture cool completely.
  3. When mixture is cooled, form tablespoon size balls and place on baking sheet. You should get 18-20 truffles.  Roll the truffles in remaining 1/2 C shredded coconut and/or nuts, if using.  Alternatively, you could fill mini-muffin cups with the cacao/coconut mixture and top with nuts or shredded coconut.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  5. Enjoy!

¹ http://www.enjoydarkchocolate.com/dark-chocolate/what-is-cacao.html

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Kingdom Date Truffles

Makes 20 ridiculously amazing truffles

I had the good fortune of getting my hands on some Kingdom Dates, which just means they came from their original home.  The Date Palm Tree is native to Saudi Arabia and dates back over 10,000 years.  This little wonder has stuck around for good reason.  Nowadays, most of the dates we get are grown in California.  Not exactly local for us on the East Coast, but we can make an exception.  Especially for yummy, whole food sweetness like this.  (There are a variety of dates though these were the ubiquitous Medjool dates as they were soft and semi-dry.)

Dates are sweet.  Make no mistake about it.  They are my preferred sweetener actually.  I use them in my smoothies and in baked goods and the sweetness is real, not sugary.  Because they are so sweet by nature, they aren’t suitable for those with diabetes (even pre-diabetics are advised against them) or cancer.  That’s the bad news…sorry!  Now for the good news.

There is an abundance of dietary fiber in dates, which means a healthy gut and colon.  Dates are a good source of Vitamin A as well as other anti-oxidants.  Bye-bye free radicals!  It’s also got great cancer fighting properties, particularly against colon, prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers.¹  Sugars in Libyan dates were shown to have some anti-tumor properties while another sugar, beta-D-glucan slows the absorption of glucose.²  Dates are also a good source of iron, potassium, copper and calcium.  Not bad for a little morsel of sweetness.

This is a great dessert especially for these summer months since there’s no baking involved.  It’s also gluten-free and vegan (don’t tell your non-gluten-free/non-vegan friends) so everyone at the party can enjoy and share in the date joy.

You’ll need:

2 C pitted dates, roughly chopped

1/4 C cacao powder

1 T ground flaxseeds

1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut, separated

1 T coconut oil (+ more for rolling truffles)

1/4 t cinnamon

1/2 t vanilla extract (optional)

For coating:

1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 C hazelnut meal (or crushed hazelnuts)

1/4 C sesame seeds

To make:

1.  Place all the ingredients in a food processor and begin to process.  It will be noisy and tough to break up the dates, so it’ll take some time.  Add 1 T of water at a time to help loosen it up, but do so slowly so the mixture doesn’t get too wet or sticky.  If it does (it happened to me), add more coconut and a touch more cacao powder.

2. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes or so before rolling into little truffles.

3. Put some coconut oil on your hands before rolling.  Measure about a scant T and roll away.  I ended up with 20 exactly…kind of lucky I think, but of course it’ll depend on how large or small you roll them.

4. Coat the truffles in your desired coating or mix and match.  Then refrigerate for about 30 minutes or longer.  Just let them sit at room temp for a few minutes before serving.

5. Enjoy!  I know you will!

¹http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/dates.html

²Rebecca Katz, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen

Frozen Hot Chocolate

Makes 4 C

Frozen hot chocolate, like fried ice cream, really does a number on us left brainers.  We analyze and over-analyze to make sense of this apparent contradiction.  Not until we let our tastebuds take over do we then realize such analyses are unnecessary.  It’s decadent, it’s rich, it’s delicious.  Who cares if it’s an anomaly.

Chocolate is a gift from the gods.  No, really, it is a gift from Central and South America and was regarded by the great Maya and Aztec as a favored bitter drink valuable enough to be their currency.  It was the Swedes who coined it “theobroma”, food of the gods, in Greek.¹  There are many wonderful things about cacao or cocoa.  It is anti-inflammatory and it’s got delicious flavonoids that  seem to have chemo-protective effects.²  It’s also high on the anti-oxidant list, boasting around 3-4 more times than green tea.  (The darker the chocolate, the better!)  As for minerals, chocolate grants us copper (important for heart health and iron absorption), magnesium, potassium, and iron.³ All these goodies contribute to cardiovascular health, lowered hypertension, and increased blood flow (read, lowered risk of plaque build-up).  Oh, it was also widely considered an aphrodisiac and overall makes us feel good, happy, giddy even.  Good thing chocolate got around!

The caveat is, don’t OD on it!  Quantity destroys quality in anything!  There is still theobromine (caffeine relative) in chocolate which can be irritating to the GI tract, cause anxiety or insomnia and hyperactivity in kiddies.

One last note; spontaneous acts of love have been known to occur after consumption of this elixir.  Have fun with that!

You’ll need:

1 can organic coconut milk (whole fat)

1 cinnamon stick

2 T organic (fair trade preferable) cacao powder

2 T agave nectar

1 bar (approx 3 oz.) organic, fair trade dark chocolate (I had 73%), roughly broken

5-6 ice cubes

Ground cinnamon, for garnish

To make:

1. Heat coconut milk and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over low heat until the edges start to bubble.  Stir in cacao powder and agave nectar and let the edges begin to bubble again.  Remove cinnamon stick.

2. Place dark chocolate bar in a separate bowl and pour hot coconut/cacao mix over chocolate to melt.  Stir well.  Let cool.  (Or if you have time, you can let it cool and then refrigerate for up to 1 day.)*

3. In a blender, add hot chocolate and ice cubes and blend until frothy.  Serve with coconut cream and some ground cinnamon.

4. Enjoy!

*If you put hot chocolate in the fridge, it will thicken quite a bit.  It’s like a ganache.  Simply scrape into the blender and add water (coconut water would be ideal) to the consistency you want.  Go slow so that it doesn’t become too thin.

¹ Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² Rebecca Katz, The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen

³ http://www.allchocolate.com/health/basics/