Golden (Milk) Bites
Early this week we felt the first hint of autumn. Moody grey skies gave way to intense winds and ominous storm clouds. Behind those a dramatic chill, seeing 30s at sunrise, afternoons barely doubling. Suffice it to say, the extra blankets came out and slippers went on. Nevermind that it’s 70 now — as soon as the nights lengthen, rainy grey days are on heavy rotation and the air changes from crisp to cool, even once, warm drinks make their delicious return to my kitchen.
There is nothing like a mug of something hot and creamy to comfort and calm. Golden milk, a new staple for me, is particularly welcome of late. The combination of turmeric, cardamom, ginger and coconut offers a richly warming quality that wards off the nip and lifts my spirits. It gave me an idea to make it a hand-held nibble, adding a few nutrient bonuses, for maximum enjoyment on the hoof.
With a vibrant autumnal hue flecked with those same grounding spices, these tote-able beauties are fresh and bright, and taste just like the drink that inspired them. Kids and adults, golden milk newbies and aficionados alike are sure to approve. (And they give a nod to new flickering faces on neighborhood doorsteps.)
What’s in them for me?
These brightly colored bites pack in a lot of nutrition for their small size. Sweetened solely by figs and dates, each 2-bite serving comes in at only 8 grams of sugar, while providing 4 grams of fiber. For parents working around school/daycare restrictions, they’re completely nut-free — three super seeds being the primary sources of the 6 grams of plant-based protein (equivalent to 1 egg) and 10 grams of predominantly healthy unsaturated fats.
Turmeric has been revered for centuries around the world, particularly in the east, for medicinal purposes. Fresh, it’s a dark orange root with a tan skin similar to that of ginger (and in fact is from the same family, Zingiberaceae). Powdered, it’s an earthy, intensely yellow spice. This vibrant color is indicative of the polyphenolic compound curcumin, and represents its impressive list of health benefits. Known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, turmeric also may have antibacterial and antiviral properties, and has been linked to prevention of cancer cell growth.
Ginger and cardamom also have potent antioxidant properties to boost activity of our immune cells. Ginger, like turmeric, is a root in its whole form that becomes a creamy tan powder when dried and ground. It’s known for aiding digestion and nausea, as well as its ability to energize and reduce inflammation (pregnant ladies, take note). The tiny seeds extracted from green or black cardamom pods (another spice from Zingiberaceae) impart a strong, almost floral, spicy-sweet kick, and provides nearly 30% of your daily manganese in 1 tsp.
Chia and sesame are good sources of non-dairy calcium; both are high in manganese and phosphorous. Sesame and pepitas offer plant-based ‘non-heme’ iron, and are excellent sources of magnesium and copper — minerals vital for metabolism, as well as health of your nerves, immune and digestive systems, skin and hair. Sesame seeds contain coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant involved in energy production that may also play roles in treating high blood pressure and cholesterol, diseases of the eye, asthma, chronic fatigue, and possibly Alzheimer’s. Pepitas provide B vitamins, vitamin E, and are a rich source of immune-supporting and inflammation-reducing zinc. (More about chia nutrition here.)
Coconut cream imparts a velvety richness. While a more concentrated source of fat, coconut cream, in conjunction with the seeds’ healthy fats, helps your body absorb and utilize all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants discussed above. Coconut cream also contains lauric acid that has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties to further promote a healthy immune system… especially important this time of year!
One is a tasty little smackerel; pop a second for a hunger-quashing, mood-boosting one-two punch. Straight out of the fridge or freezer they’re great, but I also love them warm from a short turn in the microwave, or blended with a frozen banana, nut or seed milk, and a spoon of oat bran as a hearty snack or breakfast.
Whether it’s a more travel-friendly version of your favorite drink you seek, or to sneak the anti-inflammatory powers of turmeric into your family’s diet, my sweet, spicy, warming Golden (Milk) Bites are for you. And we can all benefit from bursts of sun-shine-y yellow as we head into the cold, grey months when the sun dares to show its face. Don’t you think?
Tell me… Have you jumped on the golden milk bandwagon? What do you think (of the drink, not the wagon)?
- 2 large dried figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 5 large Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp coconut cream (see HGN Notes)
- 1 packed cup pepita flour (see HGN Notes)
- 2 Tbsp chia seeds
- 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp turmeric powder, to your taste (I personally love the flavor of turmeric and bump it up to 2 or even 2 1/2 Tbsp; if you're new to it, stick with the smaller amount at first)
- 1 tsp powdered cardamom
- 1 tsp powdered ginger
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Place the chopped figs into a small heat-safe bowl. Cover with hot water, and set aside 10 minutes to soften.
- In a food processor, pulse the chopped dates and figs (reserve the soaking liquid) a few times to chop them into smaller pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and continuing pulsing until the mixture comes together. If it's too dry, add 1 Tbsp at a time of the reserved fig soaking liquid, pulsing after each addition, until the ingredients hold together.
- Now we roll. You can either take the eyeballing approach: scoop tablespoon-sized portions of the mixture straight out of the processor; OR be more precise in measuring: transfer the mixture to a clean work surface, form it into a large flat square about 3/4" tall, and then cut it into 16 or 20 smaller squares. (If you choose the latter, I recommend laying down a piece of wax or parchment paper to avoid staining the surface yellow.) Roll the portions into balls, wetting your palms if the mixture is on the stickier side.
- The golden bites will keep refrigerated in a sealed bag or container for 1 week, or for 1 to 2 months in the freezer.
1. Chill a can of full fat coconut milk for several hours in the refrigerator; NOT the freezer. The thick part that separates and rises to the top is your coconut cream. Spoon that off, and reserve the remaining milk for other uses.
2. You can also make your own: Soak 1 part unsweetened coconut shreds or flakes with 1 part hot water for 10 to 20 minutes. Let cool, then puree in a high-powered blender for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is fairly smooth. Strain through a cheesecloth or fine sieve, squeezing or pressing out as much liquid as possible. After refrigerating this coconut milk for several hours, you can proceed as indicated in option 1 above.
I used pepita flour created from the leftover pulp of homemade pepita milk (see instructions here: http://tinyurl.com/ojvdbat). You can substitute equal amounts of homemade or store-bought almond flour, coconut flour, or any other nut or seed flour you like. Plantain flour might be an interesting alternative to consider as well.
+ Swap the chia for poppy seeds, or white sesame for black, or sunflower seeds for pepitas -- use what you have and enjoy!
+ Any other dried fruit can be used to replace the figs and/or dates 1:1, such as dried apricots, mango or papaya, unsweetened cherries or cranberries, prunes, black or golden raisins.
+ Roll the bites in unsweetened coconut flakes as an optional extra. Add even more flavor by toasting the coconut first.
+ Instead of round, be square: http://www.heathergnutrition.com/2015/03/05/lemon-poppy-seed-bites/!
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