Everyone in my family has a serious sweet tooth. And while that may sound like it could be a health issue, I choose to view it as a plus because it's a great reason to keep dark chocolate, dried fruit, fruit leather, and a quart-jar of homemade cookies in the house. Since I find that love to end most days with chocolate, I've decided that there's no way that I expect Linden to be any different. She's tasted intense dark chocolate and has had her fill of chocolate chip cookies over the past year—and not surprisingly, she's liked all of it.
I was starting to get anxious about her treat intake during the holidays though, so I started to do an experiment inspired by #5 in this blog post on Raise Healthy Eaters (as well as this one from the Feeding Doctor). Instead of planning on a snack, piece of fruit, or dessert after dinner, I started offering it as part of her dinner. Each time that I've done it, she goes back and forth between all of the foods and in the end, she has always eaten less of the dessert food—if any—than I have offered. It's kind of amazing to watch her balance out her intake in real time.
I assume that this is partly because the dessert food is being neutralized and is simply another component of the meal. It's not a treat or a special food in this context, so there's no reason to want it more on an emotional level. It may taste delicious, but she might be just as hungry for the other parts of her meal. And for me, it kind of takes the stress out of deciding when or whether to offer her dessert because she so clearly can decide for herself when the foods are in this balanced context. Has anyone else tried this approach?
But getting back to these cookies. Oh boy, they are good. They sort of taste like a Chocolate Coconut Larabar, which I ate regularly when they first came onto the market and thus have nothing but fond thoughts for anything that tastes similar. These cookies are sweet without being cloying since the sweetness comes from dates. You can vary the nut if you prefer, though I like the flavor of cashews in this mix. Plus, when you soak and then puree them, they are very soft and easy for little ones to eat. Roll them into balls or flatten them slightly into cookies according to how you think you and your kiddo will like to eat them. Two night ago, I let Linden choose which she wanted, and she choose one of each, obviously. So they went onto her plate right alongside her enchilada and she alternated back and forth, finishing all of the enchilada and one of the cookies. The other remained on the plate with small cast off bits of tortilla.
These cookies are one of my favorite things to put into our cookie jar. (I know, I sort of can't believe we have one either—it's a quart-size mason jar that lives in the fridge.) They are filled with nutritious ingredients that, when combined, magically taste like candy.
No-Bake Chocolate Cashew Cookies
Makes about 24 teaspoon-size cookies
These cookies should be stored in the fridge, but know that they stay pretty soft even when cold, so even younger eaters can try them. They are ever so slightly sticky but generally have the texture of a truffle.
Adapted from this barre3 recipe.
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 cup pitted dates
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons shredded and unsweetened coconut
1. Place the cashews and dates in a medium bowl and cover with water. Let sit for 1-2 hours to soften. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Add cashews, dates, and vanilla to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, stopping to scrap down the sides often, until ground into a relatively smooth paste-like dough. (If you have a Vitamix or other strong blender, use it here. If not, be patient with your food processor since it might take a few times of stopping and scraping to get things ground down enough.) Transfer dough to a medium bowl.
3. Use a wooden spoon or a spatula to stir in the cocoa powder and coconut. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Use a teaspoon to portion out dough, rolling each in the palm of your hand. Leave as balls or flatten into cookie shapes. Let firm up in the fridge for an hour or two before serving (if you can wait that long!).
Use almonds instead of cashews.
Add a dried cherry or cranberry to the center of each ball for a fun surprise.
Roll each in shredded coconut or cocoa powder to make them look like truffles.