Note: This is a refrigerator jam, meaning that it is not shelf-stable because the jars are not processed after filling. You must store this jam in the refrigerator.
Back in December, in a Christmas cookie-fueled, sleep deprived hysteria, I decided that January would be all about taking better care of myself. I would eat healthier, get more sleep, do more yoga, and spend less time on the computer. You could call them resolutions, but I don't. It always seems like making formal resolutions is a quick path to failure. And besides, none of this is about what I feel I should be doing, and all about feeling better.
Every person responds differently to changes in their diet, and I would never prescribe anything I do to someone else, so there's no need to go into specifics. It is enough to say that I am focusing more on fruits and vegetables and avoiding refined sugar. Nothing too revolutionary.
But one of the secrets to making any dietary change work is making it enjoyable. If you're hungry or bored, you will be way more likely to go back to unhealthy habits. Eating healthy is not being sentenced to soggy salads or meals of boneless skinless chicken breasts. It is merely opening yourself up to new foods, new ways of cooking, and above all, new ways to nourish yourself.
For me, this approach involves lots of snacking. And besides fresh fruit, one of my favorite snacks has been these energy-rich "truffles." I don't particularly like to call them truffles, as it seems a misuse of the word, but I dislike even more any recipe with the word "balls" in the title. So truffles they are.
These are vegan, gluten free, and refined sugar free, and they're incredibly tasty. You won't be fooled into thinking they're anything so decadent as a truffle, but as an alternative to the many dry and insipid energy bars out there, they're leaps and bounds better.
As with most of my recipes, you can change this one quite a bit depending on what you want. Use dried cherries or raisins in addition to dates (I wouldn't omit the dates altogether--they provide the perfect consistency and sweetness), different kinds of nuts, spices, toasted coconut, and even little chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate.
Because dried fruits vary in freshness and moisture content, you may need to soak your dates in hot water before processing them. Simply pour a cup of warm water over the dates and let them stand for about 10 minutes. Drain the fruit well and pat dry with a paper towel. If you can find soft dates, you will not need to do this step.
2 cups lightly packed dried dates
If your dates are on the dry side, combine them in a bowl with:
1 cup warm water
Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the fruit and pat dry with a paper towel. Chop the dates roughly (I used kitchen shears, as dates are very sticky and a pain to cut with a knife).
Finely grind (but not to a paste) in a food processor:
1 1/2 cups almonds (raw or toasted is fine--avoid salted or seasoned almonds)
Alternatively, you may use:
1 1/2 cups almond meal
Add the soaked dates to the food processor along with:
1/4 cup cocoa powder
(1/2 cup cocoa nibs)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Process until the mixture comes together and everything is finely ground. The mixture should be pasty enough to hold together when pressed into a ball. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it comes together.
Form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Store in an airtight container.