Monday 24 November 2014

Snack attack: Energizing date and almond bonbons

I started back at full teaching hours about three weeks ago. This now involves less freedom to mess around in the kitchen in the afternoons, experimenting with new recipes but it also involves daydreaming about new recipes that I want to make. Teaching in the afternoons also involves more energy than I normally have, which is where biscuits come in.

Every Friday at work, the teacher's kitchen is thronged with hungry teachers who are in there to get their fill of every conceivable biscuity treat after a week of teaching. Don't get me wrong, we love our jobs and I'm not the first one to admit, with complete honesty, that this is the best staff room I've ever worked in. That doesn't detract from the point that it's tough going giving a six hour presentation, tailored to the individual needs of the fifteen or adult learners who have flown half way across the world to study English. We need our break and our energy. There are dark and milk chocolate digestives, chocolate chip cookies, regular oreos and extra cream oreos, kimberley mikados, coconut polos, caramel snaps and mini mars bars. That is just the beginning.

Every Friday we expect the mountain of biscuits will surely last throughout the following week and by Tuesday are disappointed to find the cupboards bare and nothing that we can dip into a cup of tea and give us the energy pick-me-up we so desperately need at the afternoon tea break.

When I just worked the mornings, I left work at lunch time and left the biscuits behind me. I felt healthier and more energized, less bogged down by the accumulation of three dark chocolate digestives, a mini mars bar and a triple chocolate chip cookie. My willpower knows nothing of restraint on biscuit Fridays. It occurred to me over the weekend that I could eat all the healthy meals in the world but if I am serious about moving towards a diet of non-processed foods (my aim for 2015), then the biscuits would have to go.

I didn't want to have to munch on a stale and pale rice cake while the rest of the teachers tucked into their oreos so I needed to think of something healthy, filling, energizing and above all damn tasty. Not the 'this will do, I'm happy with my healthy choice I swear' kind of tasty. I'm talking about the 'this is frackin awesome and every time I make them everyone wants to eat them just as much as me that I even have to hide them from my Dad' kind of tasty.

Well, I succeeded. I went home home at the weekend and made these bad boys and they are scrumdiddlyumptious. When I blitzed them in the blender, my Dad instantly wanted to know what they were, since all he saw was a cocoa colored, dessert-like snack. Dad is my unsuspecting taste tester. I know that Mam loves healthy snacks and know her chia from her chai but Dad is different. He is a very open-minded lover of food but it takes a lot for him to really like food that deviates from the norm. When Dad said they tasted "incredible", I knew I'd be able to change other people's minds.

This is why I'm writing it for you. Healthy snacks can often taste of cardboard as you look longingly at everyone else munching into cake and biscuits. These treats are healthy, filling, give you a slow release of energy but most importantly, above all those traits, tasted damn good. They took me less than 10 minutes to make and last (if you can help yourself) for a week in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer.

Chocolate digestives be gone. This week's tea breaks are the time for these date and almonds bonbons to shine.

Ingredients: Makes 26-30
2 cups medjool dates
1 cup whole almonds
2 Tbsp desiccated coconut
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 pinch of salt

2 Tbsp desiccated coconut

Using a food processor blend the dates and almonds until it broken up loosely. Add in all other ingredients and blend on high until it forms a dense paste and comes away from the walls of the blender.

In a small frying pan on a very low heat, toast the remaining 2 Tbsp of desiccated coconut until lightly toasted.

Roll a heaped teaspoon amount of the date and almond paste into a ball and drop into the toasted coconut, rolling it until the bonbon is evenly coated. Set aside onto a baking tray. Continue until all the mixture is used up. Chill in the fridge for one hour to set before placing in a sealed jar or container in the fridge (up to one week) or the freezer (up to 3 months but good luck trying to make them last that long!)

I brought a jar into work today and surprised myself by how little I wanted that biscuit and how much I looked forward to and devoured the date bonbon.

Give yourself a treat that you satisfy the appetite and make you feel good with your cup of tea at break time. 


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