Dates are a lovely, healthy snack for kids (and adults too, of course). They have a high fibre content, so are great for gut health, and they help to regulate blood sugar as well. I started making date balls when my now 6-year-old was a toddler. If memory serves me correctly (absolutely no guarantees there) I mixed some dates and other bits and pieces together, and amazingly, my toddler ate them, and then asked for more. I don’t follow a recipe, so no two batches are ever exactly the same, but both my kids love them still, however they turn out, and I hope yours will too.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 x 250g blocks of pitted dates
- Additional dried fruit (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon of nut butter
- Approximately ⅓ cup of oats or oat bran
- A generous tablespoon (or more) of shaved almonds (optional)
- Desiccated coconut for rolling balls in
- A food processor – trying to chop sticky dates with any household gadget is a pretty big task but a food processor handles it reasonably well.
Here’s how to make them:
- Cut up the dates into small-ish blocks and soak them in water for at least 15 minutes. Soaking them makes them a lot easier for the food processor to chop. If you’re going to add additional dried fruit, depending on what you’re using – some dried fruits are tougher and chewier than others – you may want to cut it up into small pieces and throw it in to soak with the dates. I find Turkish apricots work well as an additional flavour and are soft enough not to need soaking. Dried apple with a bit of dried ginger is also a good combo – it adds an interesting favour for little palates and is fairly easy for the food processor to manage.
- Drain all the liquid off the dates and scoop them into the food processor. You can throw in all the other bits and pieces now as well. For the nut butter, I usually use peanut butter that has no sugar or salt added, and this is what I always have in my cupboard. But you can really use any nut butter.
- Now comes the bit where patience is definitely a virtue. My good processor (which I think is a fairly decent one) struggles to blend all the ingredients together. I think this is because it’s such a thick and sticky mixture. So I find that after a bit of blending I need to scrape and reposition the mixture. Repeatedly – until it’s all a fairly even consistency.
- Roll the mixture into small balls and roll each ball in desiccated coconut. This prevents them from sticking together. My kids love helping with this step. It’s messy but giving your children opportunities to assist or even do things for themselves in the kitchen has huge benefits for them and allowing them to get sticky and dirty is wonderful for their developing sense of touch.
- You will likely lose a few date balls to small mouths as you make them. That’s ok. Store any remaining balls in the fridge or freezer. This helps to firm them up and prolongs their lifespan too.
Cut up the dates into smallish squares.
Soak in water for at least 15 minutes – if you’re using very chewy dried fruit, you can chop it up and add it in to soak too.
Add all the ingredients into your food processor
Let the food processor do its job (you’ll probably need to help it along)
Form into balls and roll each ball in coconut to prevent them from sticking together
Date balls make wonderful lunch box additions, or a quick and healthy post-school snack! Yum!
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