Copycat Recipe: NatureBox Coconut Date Energy Bites

IMG_20150210_054607679For Christmas The Hubs and I were gifted a 2-month subscription to NatureBox (shout out to the Kornbaus!). Our first box had a few delicious things, most notably the Dark Chocolate Berry Trail Mix and Honeycomb Sunflower Kernels, as did our second box with Dark Cocoa Nom Noms (hard to eat just one of these) and my favorite: the Coconut Date Energy Bites. As always, I checked the nutritional information and took a bite. These pillowy, sweet nuggets of heaven were only 90 calories for 3 bites. The coconut flavor was subtle, the texture of the dates almost fluffy, and the flavor rich and…date-y? Either way, they are seriously good. I definitely felt hyper after eating them, but unsure if it’s a placebo effect, the rush of the natural sugar, or the euphoric high of their maximum deliciosity.

IMG_20150210_054621013_HDRI checked the ingredients list. Surely these things must be loaded with delicious things like the Dark Cocoa Nom Noms. I was wrong. TWO ingredients?! Dates and Coconut?! How novel!

I immediately said to myself, “Self,” said I, “Thou canst make these thine own self!” To which my self replied, “Totes!” (I may have lost my mind briefly.)

So on my next grocery shopping trip, I snagged a tub of pitted dates. I already had unsweetened coconut burning a hole in my cabinet from when I went a little psycho for Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain Hot Cereal with coconut and Craisins in it. Before work yesterday I decided to try out this potentially simple snack recipe. Here are the results!

I'm terrified of this massive ingredients list.
I’m terrified of this massive ingredients list.

Tools:

  • Food Processor
  • 10 oz. Pitted Dates
  • 1/2 cup (30g) unsweetened coconut flakes

Recipe:

If you have large flaked coconut like I do, throw it into the food processor and pulse until you have finer flakes. Pour the coconut out onto a plate.

Don’t bother cleaning out the food processor bowl, just toss the dates in. Process until smooth. At this point I looked into the food processor and thought it looked super thick, so I added a tablespoon of water and processed some more. Maybe a total running time of a minute in the food processor.

I laid down some wax paper and scraped the date paste onto it. Then I grabbed a teaspoon measuring spoon.

NOTE: WET THE MEASURING SPOON. EVERY TIME. AND WET YOUR FINGERS.

Just trust me on this.

Scoop out a flattened teaspoon of date paste. Use your thumb or finger to scoop the paste out of the spoon and then use your fingers to roll into a little ball. Plop these babies down on the bed of coconut. When you can’t fit anymore on the plate, roll the balls around in the coconut to coat, and place them in the container the dates came in. Don’t worry, they’ll all fit. (If your dates came in a bag or some other unacceptable container, use a four cup plastic container.) Repeat until date paste is gone.

I managed to get 42 of these babies, which is 14 servings of 3 bites.

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Nutritionally, I think they’re pretty close. If you do the math on my version, you’ll come out with 22 grams for 3 pieces, which is a little lighter than NatureBox, so the serving is slightly smaller. I made a chart so you can see the comparisons. There is a slight discrepancy, but I think it’s due mostly to the ratio of dates to coconut. I used more coconut than was in the original recipe, which is obvious when you look at the comparison photo of the two (you can also see the size difference here).

nut_compareBut HOW DO THEY TASTE?! This is what you came here for, isn’t it? Because, let’s face it, food isn’t worth eating if it isn’t delicious, am I right? (Just say “Totes, Andrea, totes!”)

Mine are even pillowier than the Naturebox version! My guess is due to the water and the processing method. The coconut flavor is stronger in mine as well. In the end, I like the texture of mine better, but the flavor is slightly better in the NatureBox version. I gave one of each for The Hubs to try and he said “Those are pretty damn close!” And we all know, close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and copycat recipes! (I may have taken some liberty with this quote.)

http://www.impowerable.com/protect-the-planet/make-it-yourself-simple-safe-and-cheap/Now, the cost wasn’t super important to me, but I figure a price comparison would be useful here. In a NatureBox subscription, you get 5 bags of snacks for $19.95 with free shipping. So each snack bag is $3.99. A bag of NatureBox Date Coconut Energy Bites is 5 oz. or approximately 142 grams and contains about 4.5 servings according to the package. That’s a cost of about $0.89 per serving. My recipe made 14 servings. I paid $3.79 for the dates and 2 servings of coconut flakes is approximately $0.41. So the total cost of my ingredients is $4.20, which makes mine about $0.30 a serving for 22 g, or if you use a 30 g portion for a direct comparison $0.41 a serving. Less than half the price! The entire process might have taken me 20 minutes, max. And considering you have to spend $19.95 for a NatureBox subscription, you pay even more.

In conclusion, this recipe is well worth making at home if you have the time!

Now excuse me while I go shove a bunch of these in my face.

How to Lose 100 Lbs Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking the Bank: Part V – Recipe Adaptation

One of the complaints about trying to lose weight is having to eat “diet” food. Well, with the occasional exception of a frozen dinner here and there, I don’t DO “diet” food. I do food. There’s a common idiom I hear often in weight loss circles: eat to live, don’t live to eat. I have a serious problem with this: it implies (much like the phrase “clean eating”) that there is a right way and a wrong way to eat. Why can’t the answer be somewhere in the middle? I have a very good friend to whom food is deserving of worship, deeply tied to emotion and memory. I have an acquaintance who couldn’t care less about food having flavor: baked chicken breasts, brown rice and steamed broccoli would make her happy for months. As is almost always the case with me, I fall in the middle of the spectrum.

http://sometimesalicefx.deviantart.com/
http://sometimesalicefx.deviantart.com/

Okay, look, if I’m honest, I fall closer to the worship side. There are most decidedly foods worth worship for me: creamy foie gras pate with concord grape reduction, perfectly cooked duck breast with crispy skin (including bits of baguette dipped in the savory juices), duck hearts grilled rare, juicy smoked kielbasa, the corner pizza shop’s chicken parmesan. The list goes on. But if I want to lose or maintain my weight (and maintain my budget), I simply can’t eat those things on a daily basis. However, there’s no reason I can’t have delicious, flavorful foods without blowing my calories, particularly if I’m willing to tweak a recipe.

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pork-and-cider-stew
http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/pork-and-cider-stew One of the complaints in the reviews of this recipe is that the photo shows potatoes but the recipe contains NO POTATOES!

I have a bit of a problem with recipes. I can spend hours browsing the internet for recipes: and Pinterest is the worst for this. The problem is, most of the recipes I wind up bookmarking might be delicious, but they just aren’t everyday recipes, meaning, the calories are on the high side. So, being fairly confident in the kitchen, I find a recipe I love and tweak it! Several weeks ago I bookmarked a delicious looking Pork and Cider Stew from Food & Wine Magazine. Pork shoulder, bacon, butter, olive oil AND heavy cream make this recipe sound incredibly rich and comforting. I kept going back to the recipe: it just seemed so perfect for chilly February. So, this week, I decided to adapt it. Here’s my method for adapting almost any recipe.

  1. Find a recipe calculator. You won’t be surprised that I use SparkRecipes.com.
  2. Enter the ingredients of the recipe AS LISTED. The original recipe for Pork and Cider Stew serves 10 – 12. I plan on making a recipe that serves 4, so I used 12 as my original serving count.
  3. Panic a little. The original recipe is 742 calories per serving?! It doesn’t even include a starch! The photo has potatoes, but there are no potatoes! What can I do?!
  4. Calm down, and adjust. Start by reducing the ingredients to make a recipe the size you want. Now you know the amounts of the ingredients you’ll need, and you can substitute ingredients to get the desired results.
  5. Start substituting ingredients. This recipe has a WHOPPING 58 grams of fat per serving. It’s not surprising, considering the butter, heavy cream, olive oil, fatty pork shoulder and bacon. So we have fat covered. The easiest to replace is the heavy cream. When I want the creaminess of heavy cream in a stew without the fat, I replace it ounce for ounce with evaporated skim milk. That immediately saves you 55 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving. Next up, replacing that fatty pork shoulder with the much leaner pork loin. We’ve got 27 ounces of pork shoulder, which is a huge amount for 4 servings. We’re going to replace 27 ounces of pork shoulder with 16 ounces of pork loin (NOT tenderloin). BAM, we just lost 279 calories and 27 more grams of fat per serving. Crazy, huh? This recipe is now a manageable 414 calories and 24.2 grams of fat per serving. But if you’re like me, and 450 calories is the MAX you want to eat in one serving, you might be a little bothered by this recipe. Why? The only vegetable is onions! I hardly even count onions as vegetables these days, so I want more.
  6. Add in veggies for bulk. Most veggies add no fat but have tons of nutrients. Hmm. Potatoes and carrots? Sounds yum. Let’s do that. Make sure you add them into the instructions as well! I decided to add the potatoes and carrots after the pork had cooked for 15 minutes, so they could get tender but not mushy. Okay, that pushed the calories up to 491 per serving. Pushing it for me. Let’s do a final once over.
  7. Get rid of ingredients you really don’t need. There’s still a LOT of fat in this recipe. Do we really NEED the butter and oil, or can we use the vastly more flavorful bacon fat to brown the pork? Ahem. Please. Goodbye butter and oil! I’m dumping you and starting with browning the bacon so I can use its delicious fat to brown the pork loin. Booyah! Only 440 calories and 18.5 grams of fat per serving. Now this recipe is hearty AND healthy!

Here’s a comparison of the ingredients lists and nutritional information:

Ingredient ComparisonNutrition Comparison

If I could have fit my face in there, I would have licked the bowl.
If I could have fit my face in there, I would have licked the bowl.

So how does it TASTE? Because I mean, really, what’s the point of cooking healthy food if it tastes awful and you don’t want to eat it, right?

I mean, uh, it’s pretty awful, I should just eat it all myself. Save you the trouble. *cough*

Just kidding, it was DELICIOUS! Seriously: it was rich, creamy, smoky, salty and the pork was so incredibly tender you barely had to chew. The only change The Hubs and I will make for this recipe in the future is to leave out the sage. We found it too strong and a bit overpowering. Maybe thyme would be a good substitute? I personally think it would be fine without any fresh herbs at all. And seriously? You do not need heavy cream in this recipe at all. The little bit of evaporated skim milk plus the cornstarch gave it a velvety mouth feel that was just divine. You can find MY lightened version of this recipe, ready to print, HERE, if you have a SparkPeople account. If you don’t, you can click the image below.

recipe

Convincing Your Significant Other to Eat Healthier

http://www.internetbillboards.net/2014/09/18/get-rid-of-breakfast-blues/
I don’t WANNA eat salad!
http://www.fruitsandviggiesjuiceplus.com/
How can anyone turn their nose up at this delicious stuff?!

I do most of the cooking at home. Okay, I do pretty much all of the cooking at home. That’s my choice: my husband CAN cook, but his repertoire is limited. I love sausage and potatoes, but not every day, and deep fried things are special occasion items only. Now, I admit, The Hubs makes an amazing chili LOADED with veggies. If he wants to make chili, I am totally cool with that. But most of the time, I’m in the kitchen cooking. And that’s fine: it gives me the control I need to eat healthy. On A Measured Life’s Facebook Page, I’ve gotten a few questions about how I convinced The Hubs to eat healthy. Well, for starters, I give him 3 options: eat what I cook, cook your own food, or starve for all I care. I’m not a short order cook, and I’m sure as hell not going to cook two separate meals just because you turn your nose up. (There *are* a few exceptions to this, but it’s rare.)

To be fair, I do ask him if a recipe sounds like something he’d eat before I decide to make it, and after being together so long, I have a pretty good idea of what he will and won’t eat (even if I sometimes slip in something here or there that’s “off-limits”). I also occasionally ask him to send me recipes he might like to try, and if it’s relatively healthy, that’s great! Less work for me. If it isn’t, I tweak it to make it healthier. (Side note: I don’t usually disclose the substitutions I make. Sometimes full disclosure works against you. If you don’t SAY the recipe is healthy and it tastes good, do they really need to know?)

I also sneak extra veggies into recipes when I can. Does your SO love mashed potatoes? There are a couple things you can

http://www.rimarama.com/with-a-side-of-sit-up-straight/
Or cook it yourself.

tweak here. Blend in mashed cauliflower or celery root to lighten it without messing up the flavor too much. Switch out heavy cream or whole milk for skim, and reduce the butter slightly. Sneak a cup of cooked sweet potato, butternut or acorn squash into baked mac and cheese. Making meat sauce at home? Finely dice onions, carrots and celery and cook down with the meat (reduce meat by ¼) to bulk up the sauce and add great flavor without it tasting like veggies. Finely shredded zucchini can be well hidden here, too! Add pumpkin puree to plain pasta sauce or even chili to add fiber. Bulk up your burgers or meatloaf with chopped mushrooms. Substitute half the ground beef in sloppy joes with cooked lentils (okay, you CAN taste these, but I happen to like it like that).

When it comes to vegetables, if your significant other doesn’t like some veggies much, you can avoid them altogether, or you can experiment with preparing the veggies different ways. My dad grew up hating asparagus. Why? Because he only ever ate it from a can. Yuck! I only recently learned that beets don’t suck when eaten just rinsed straight out of a can or roasted whole in the oven. But Swiss chard or arugula? Pass. I’m also not personally a fan of avocado, but I’m sure prepared correctly I would love it. So feel free to experiment, and involve the one you love!

The Hubs and I both love comfort food, particularly on these cold and dark days. The great part is that things like this are easily adjusted (and portion controlled) to be lighter and healthier. Try a few of these examples here:

Foods That Don’t Taste Healthy But Can Be

  • Homemade Pizza (use fresh veggies, part-skim mozzarella and go light on the meat) – Eating Well’s Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
  • Stew (use leaner meats, more veg, and less fat)
  • Nachos (bake your own from corn tortillas, use leaner meats, skip the sour cream and guac)
  • Chicken & Dumplings (go a little lighter on the dumplings, use split chicken breast)
  • Meatloaf (use ground chicken breast or ground turkey) – Chicken Taco Meatloaf
  • Soup (again, load up on veggies, you can even pretend it’s a cream soup by blending the veggies smooth)
  • Stir Fries (go light on the oil and serve with steamed rice instead of fried)
  • Tacos (do them fresco style with pico de gallo – hold the cheese and sour cream)
  • Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
  • Chili (hide veggies IN the chili)
  • Hash (go light on the oil and meat, bulk the potatoes and onions) – Chourico Hash
http://beautifulbrowngirls.com/2012/10/26/healthy-and-affordable-lentil-stew-vegan/
Uh, The Hubs favorite healthy recipe if Ethiopian Lentil Stew. I think I lucked out.

Change won’t happen overnight. There may be some fussing. But if you involve your significant other in the process, and try to adapt recipes you know they love into lighter, healthier versions, the transition might be a little easier. And if not? It’s your responsibility to take care of your own body. If the person you want to eat healthy just isn’t interested, you can’t force them. He or she is an adult and is going to make his or her own choices. You can only lead by example, and hope you create a large enough wake to drag them along behind you.

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