When I was a child, I had a considerable sweet tooth. There was no cake, cookie, or chocolate bar that escaped my clutches and I often explored the nooks and crannies of my Mother’s pantry or fridge for leftover treats from parties and gatherings. When I was seven years old, I had gained enough weight to tie me over until high school so our family doctor put me “on a diet” of mineral water before meals, and absolutely no sugar in any of my foods. My Mother decided that if I wanted something sweet for dessert, I could have raisins or dates. This is where my love for dates began and has remained unwavering since. I remember sitting down to afternoon tea with the grownups, feeling so proud that I could sip hot tea loudly and eat as many dates as I wanted.
As a dietitian today, I may suggest exercising a certain degree of portion control when it comes to dried fruit, but including dates in the diet can add a great deal of nutrition, taste and variety, especially if you have a sweet tooth like me.
Date Bliss Balls are easily one of the most popular desserts among those who are aiming for a healthier dessert option, and many recipes are also suitable for those following a vegan or gluten-free diet. With so many variations on this chewy, decadent treat, it’s easy to experiment with different ingredients and flavours.
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at creating my own recipe, so I think I finally achieved a variation on the Date Bliss Ball that is delicious and nutritious at the same time.
But before I share the recipe, I would really like to pay both nutritional and cultural homage to dates. Not only are dates an excellent source of fibre, as well as nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and iron, they are also fat-free and rank low on the glycemic index scale. This means that despite their sweet flavour, the high fibre content in dates helps slow down the absorption of sugar they naturally contain.
Dates are also one of the highest antioxidant-containing fruits on the market. There is scientific evidence from population-based studies that foods high in polyphenol content, which include many brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, may help reduce inflammation and the risk of certain diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Many cultures, including the Persian, enjoy dates in their original form, served with walnuts during afternoon tea or in incorporated into desserts, one of the most popular being Ranginak.
Of the many date varieties, Medjool dates which are meaty and sweet in taste are the most popular in North America, but some Middle Eastern stores also carry the Halawi variety, which is smaller date variety chewier in texture. I prefer using the latter for recipes, because they can be pureed more easily without becoming too sticky during preparation.
Now, here is the fun part – the recipe for Dani’s Vegan, Gluten-Free Date Bliss Balls. These take very little time to prepare, with most ingredients available in the bulk section of the grocery store (buying dried fruit, nuts, and spices in bulk, if you have no allergies, can help reduce your food costs significantly).
I served Dani’s Date Bliss Balls earlier this evening to my “Persian Test Kitchen” with much praise, so perhaps they can find a place at your next tea time with friends and family, too.
10 ounces/1.5 cups Halawi dates, pitted
1 cup Sultana raisins
1 cup raw cashews
2-3 Tbsp raw almond butter
1 tsp vanilla
cinnamon for sprinkling
1. Combine all ingredients, except for cinnamon, in food processor.
2. Using the basic food processor blade, pulse all ingredients into a paste.
3. Using a small scoop, portion paste into small balls, about 1″ in diameter.
4. Sprinkle with cinnamon (or roll in cinnamon powder) as desired.