Just like everyone else, there are certain things I said I would never do when I had kids, which I now do pretty much daily. One of those things is bribing my kid with sweets.
Just like her mama, little d has a major sweet tooth. I think she was born that way -- we gave her tons of vegetables as a baby, I breastfed forever, we limited sugar, etc. etc. The kid likes her sweets, what can I tell you? Of course, we limit junk food very strictly -- packaged candy, cookies, etc. are not common for her. But a small piece of dark chocolate, a homemade cookie, a trip to the frozen yogurt place with Grandma -- all of that is ok with us.
As long as she has a fruit or a vegetable every day. That's the deal. I know you're not "supposed" to do that, that it makes the fruit/veg seem like a chore and the dessert a reward. I know. But this works for us. And right now, at this food-restrictive age, if it takes a small piece of chocolate to get an apple or a red bell pepper into her, I'll take that deal.
The best of both worlds -- healthy food, and a treat -- is this recipe. They're basically like mini Larabars, in ball form. Dates, nuts, cocoa powder -- they're made from wholesome ingredients, no added sweeteners. Super easy, full of nutrients, and little d loves them. Win win!
I hesitate to call it a "recipe," because you have to do it largely by feel. But it's worth a little fiddling around, because the results are so tasty and get a thumbs up from the World's Most Picky almost-5-year-old. Mama and Daddy love them, too.
"Raw" brownie batter bites
Makes about 20 (depending on your scoop size)
1 1/4 cups pitted dates
1 cup chopped nuts (I used a combo of almonds and pecans, that's what I had on hand. But any nut should do -- peanuts would work, also. Mine were raw and unsalted.)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 to 5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao Powder, but probably any cocoa would work)
Generous pinch of fine sea salt
1. Place the dates in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand until the dates are very soft, about 10 minutes.
2. Drain the dates, reserving the liquid. Pat the dates dry and chop.
3. Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse to chop finely. Add the dates, vanilla, 4 Tbsp. cocoa and salt and process until ground. (I had to make sure there were no traces of nuts in mine to get past little-kid inspection, but this isn't necessary if you like nuts.) Here's where the fun begins.
4. At this point, you start fiddling. Taste the batter: It should be sweet and chocolatey, and it should hold together well but not be too sticky. You may be fine right here -- if so, skip to the next step. If you need more chocolate flavor, add more cocoa, 1 tsp. at a time. If it's too dry, add a little bit of the reserved date-soaking water. If it isn't sweet enough for your liking, you can add a little maple syrup or honey (I'm not an agave fan, but that would work, too). Too sticky, add more cocoa or even more nuts. Basically just add little bits of things until it's how you like it.
5. Line a small baking sheet or pan with parchment. Scoop the batter into balls (I used a 2 tsp. sized scoop) and place on sheet. You can put them right next to each other -- they aren't going anywhere, won't spread. When you've scooped all the batter, place the sheet in the freezer and freeze until the balls are firm, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a ziplock bag and refrigerate or freeze.