I had hoped to make a dairy-free healthy version of the chow mien noodle bird's nest cookies that one sees this time of year. My first thought was to make them using homemade pretzels, but the homemade pretzels turned out to be impractical--to say the least. I spotted this recipe for No Bake Thumbprint Cookies from Whole Foods Market and thought I could ditch the jam, replace it with peanuts or dried berries and called it a bird's nest.
However, after making them, I realized they just weren't sweet enough to be appealing to my kids . . . or even to me . . . without the sweetness of the jam center. I'm all about reducing sugar, but, still, if we're using it as a stand-in for jelly beans and suckers we can't get too carried away.
The end result of my modifications still relies primarily on fruit--dates and an orange--for its flavor and sweetness, but I added cocoa and honey to sweeten it up a notch.
No-Bake Bird's Nest Cookies
3/4 cup pitted dates
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups smooth almond butter
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
zest and juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Step 1: Cover dates in warm water; soak for 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of soaking water. Drain rest of soaking water.
Step 2: In a food processor, pulse oats until coarsely ground. Remove and set aside.
Step 3: Place dates and 1/2 cup of reserved soaking water in food processor. Process until smooth.
Step 4: In a bowl, combine coarsely ground oats, pureed dates, and all of the remaining ingredients. Work with your hands to thoroughly combine.
Step 5: Roll dough into 36 balls, placing them on parchment paper. Use your thumb to make a depression in the center of each dough ball. Add peanuts, dried cranberries, or other dried berry as egg-look-alikes to the center of each nest. Chill at least one hour before serving.
I haven't officially served these to my children yet as they are being reserved for Easter, but my toddler was up while I was mixing the dough and repeatedly begged for "bite! bite!" so I think they will go over well.