There’s a story in my family that goes something like this…
It was early on Easter morning. My sister and I eagerly darted through the house peeking behind chairs and beneath beds in search of candy-laden baskets that the Easter Bunny had filled and hidden for us the night before. A shout came from my sister in the other room as she exclaimed, “I found mine!” She emerged carrying a basket mounded high with delicious candies and treats in a hundred shades of pastel purple, yellow, and blue. My mouth watered longingly, urging me to continue the hunt for my own basket.
With my sister trailing behind me oohing and ahhing over her basket, I pranced around the living room in my raggedy Snow White pajamas (they were my favorite) with my eyes peeled. Alas, there it was: a basket filled to overflowing with mouthwatering, teeth-rotting goodies tucked behind the corner of our out-of-tune piano. My little sugar-loving heart sang within me.
That Easter Sunday was a particularly lovely spring day that beckoned my parents to spend the afternoon outside setting up lawn furniture and garden ornaments for the summer season ahead. My sister joined in on the work eagerly and passed the hours helping them with projects in the backyard. As for me? I slipped away quietly, retrieved my Easter goodies from inside the house, and planted myself on the front porch with a basket-ful of chocolates and peanut butter cups. And no one to watch me devour it all.
The story goes that I sat there unfolding each wrapper with my chubby little fingers and eating each and every piece of candy in that basket. By late afternoon when my parents realized I was missing and came looking for me, I was sitting on the porch steps in a pile of wrappers next to an empty Easter basket with chocolate staining my lips and cheeks.
It’s a true story. Honest.
I’ll admit that my sweet-tooth certainly did not subside over the next few years of my childhood. Not just at Easter but at every holiday I remember looking forward to the array of delicious desserts that would always crowd the kitchen counter, just begging me to eat them. At Easter it was candy from the Easter Bunny. At the Fourth of July it was blueberry pie and root beer floats. At Thanksgiving, my mom’s blue-ribbon-winning caramel apple pie and vanilla ice cream. And at Christmas…well, need I say more about Christmas? Heck, we’re in the middle of the season right now. We all know what delicacies go along with this holiday. (In case you’ve forgotten: pecan pie, glazed nuts, pumpkin cake, fruitcake, chocolate truffles, chocolate-dipped pretzels, chocolate-covered-nuts, chocolate-covered-anything for that matter.)
Over the years, me and sugar became well acquainted friends. It wasn’t like I was a sugar-holic or anything. At the same time that I ate donuts and pie, I also piled my plate with fresh fruits and vegetables. (Because carrots and celery cancel out donuts and pie, right?) But several years ago when I was battling awful seasonal allergies, I went to a holistic nutritionist for help. And you know what she found out? I’m allergic to sugar. All those runny noses and watery, swollen eyes could clear right up if I cut the sugar from my diet, she told me.
So that’s what I’ve been doing for a good 6 or 7 years now. Gradually cutting back on the sweets and terminating the friendship with my old pal, sugar. My seasonal allergies haven’t totally disappeared, but they are now much more mild and tolerable. In light of giving up the sugar, I’ve developed new friendships along the way with fresh fruit, dates, dried figs, smoothies (mmm!), and a variety of other naturally sweet treats. Which brings me to the topic of today’s post. (Sorry, I know that took a while.)
You may recall that I posted a recipe for Date-Nut Balls a few weeks ago. Well today I’m offering another date-ball recipe, this time featuring cocoa powder. These things are a great alternative to traditional sugar-laden candies that are so hard to avoid during this festive season. Make a plate of these puppies and watch them disappear at your next holiday gathering. Yep, they’re that good.
If you love chocolate, you’ll love these. Trust me. I’m a used-to-be sugar lover, remember? Though they may be sugar free and white flour free and artificial-ingredient free and, well, free of anything bad for you, they certainly are not free of chocolatey deliciousness. Take one bite. You’ll see what I mean.
Cocoa Jingle Balls
3/4 cup raw walnuts
5 large dates, pitted and roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup raisins
2 tbs. unsweetened, good quality cocoa powder
In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, grind walnuts until they are a grainy powder. Add dates and raisins. Process 20-25 seconds, or until combined and very finely chopped. Add cocoa powder and process until incorporated and the mixture holds together when you pinch it with your fingers.
Shape the date-nut mixture into bite-sized balls, placing in candy cups if desired. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container up to 1 week. Serve at room temperature.
(This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Check it out for more great recipes!)
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