A little while ago, I started buying Bounty bars from the second-floor vending machine at work. It might have been a relatively infrequent excursion, but as any office worker knows, when you sit in front of a computer for several hours on end, you start to crave bad stuff – usually something with high-fructose corn syrup and palm oil – around 3pm. And when you don’t have access to something healthy and sustaining, you sometimes end up scouring your desk drawer for pocket change to plunk into an old vending machine for something that will satisfy your primal brain.
In my case (and to make matters worse), I also had an accomplice. My friend and office mate – we’ll protect her identity by calling her “M” – also loved Bounty bars and, like me, was really good at reducing her dissonance. We agreed that splitting a candy bar between us wasn’t as bad as eating the whole thing by ourselves, and if we didn’t read the spooky list of ingredients and enjoyed it alongside a cup of herbal tea, it didn’t seem like such an unsensible thing to do.
But then “M” went on an eight-month work transfer out of town, and I was still getting Bountry bars out of the machine. One a month became two, then three, then I realised that it had become an almost-weekly habit. No bueno.
The obvious solution was to come equipped to work with snacks. Good snacks. Snacks that would make my mom and your mom proud that they had raised well-adjusted, responsible adults. That’s when I came across a recipe, from French food writer Clotilde Dusoulier, for homemade energy bars. A mixture of dates, nuts, cinnamon and cocoa, they’re sweet and chocolately, and filled with things that aren’t palm oil or high-fructose corn syrup (they’re actually filled with vitamin A, fibre, iron, calcium, antioxidants, and potassium. Thank you, dates!). I rolled mine in shredded coconut for the “Bounty bar effect”, but if you don’t have any in the pantry, they’re swell without it too.
Here’s to better snacking in front of our computers. Have a good week, everyone x
Date-Coconut Energy Bites – adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini
- 50 grams date paste*, diced
- 100 grams mixed, unsalted nuts (Brazil nuts, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts…)
- 2 green cardamom pods, seeds only
- 100 grams Medjool or fresh dates (about 4), pitted
- 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp cacao nibs
- 1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (for rolling)
- a good pinch salt
*Date paste can be found at natural foods stores, or in North African or Middle Eastern shops. It comes as a solid block, so if it seems dry and hard, cut it into slices and soak for an hour in a little cold water to soften. Drain well before using (save the date water – you can freeze it too – to use in smoothies).
1) In a food processor, combine the diced date paste, nuts, and cardamom, and process in short pulses until the nuts are chopped to small bits and blended with the paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and process in short pulses until the mixture comes together.
2) Pour the shredded coconut into a plate; scoop a teaspoon of the date-nut into your hands and form into balls between your palms. Then roll them in the shredded coconut.
3) Lay the date-coconut balls in a airtight container, with parchment paper between each layer to prevent sticking. Transfer to the fridge to set for a few hours or preferably overnight. They will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for about a week.