Change is difficult. It really is! When I was in grade 7 my dad and I made a bet to give up sugar. I can’t even remember the time period we decided on because it seemed like an eternity to me. And just between us, I didn’t make it too long. Thinking back on the situation I remember how acutely I felt the loss of sugar. No gummies, chocolates, cookies, ice cream — no sweet treat of any kind. There is the power of big sugar at work — for some like myself (named the “treat monster” by my family) the harder I thought about not having a treat the more I wanted one. Being much older now I’ve been slowly divesting myself of that old way of thinking about sugar. Since it never made me feel very good I kept wondering why I fought so hard to keep it in my diet?
What I’ve come to realize (this started when I began testing recipes for Ella Leché) is that having treats is something I still enjoy but what I’ve had to change is the quality of those sweets, which is where a book like Bliss Bites by Kate Bradley fits in. When I talk about the quality of the sweets I eat what I’m really saying is that it’s the ingredients that make up any given dish that become pivotal. It’s a new era of eating and people who are striving for refined sugar-free diets have so many more options. Back in 2012 Kate Bradley started the blog Kenkō Kitchen because she was looking for a way to share her passion for plant-based cooking. With her second book she’s expanding our repertoire to include healthy and nourishing snacks.
The beginning of the book outlines different elements of her approach — pantry staples (or “Bliss Bites Starter Kit” as it’s called in the book), hints on making the recipes nut-free, and how to store your finished recipes. Throughout the remaining six chapters she organizes it this way — Everyday Staples, Savoury Bites, Sweet Tooth, Other Treats, Drinks, and finally, Basics & Accompaniments. In the recipes she provides both weighted and measured amounts for the ingredients and having a food processor is pretty essential to making some of her recipes. The ingredients weren’t ones that I use so often (like macadamia nuts and pistachios) but are ones that are very easy to come by at most major grocery stores, health food shops or bulk food stores.
While some of the ingredients can get a little pricey (take dates and nuts for example) Bradley points out that while you can buy pre-made bliss bites it’s much more economical to make your own. One thing I can say with great certainty is that all of the recipes I tried from this book turned out (she does say that all of her recipes were highly-tested and I totally believe her!). There’s nothing worse than buying ingredients for a recipe that’s a dud so I was happy with the resulting bites.
Being so close to Valentine’s Day I decided to go with an all-out sweet bite theme in regards to the recipes I chose to try — check out my Valentine’s Day box: Dark Chocolate Crackles (I used a dark cocoa powder instead of the regular variety), Date Night Truffles stuffed with Salted Caramel Spread, Turkish Delight Bliss Balls, Not-So-Malt Teasers (topped w/ some pretty snazzy vegan/gf star sprinkles), and Baklava Bliss Balls. All of her recipes are vegan (she does use honey but that’s easily substituted), gluten-free, and dairy-free so there is something for everyone. I even made up a batch of her coconut “bacon” to use as a topping for the date truffles. I found the “bacon” to also be very tasty as a popcorn topping!
Even though each recipe had some similar ingredients, each recipe I tried had its own unique flavour profile. We even each had our favourite — I loved the Baklava bites, while my husband really went for the date truffles, Grammy totally dug the Not-So-Malt Teasers (and the really refreshing Chia Lemonade too!), and my daughter loved the crackles. We all enjoyed her Salted Caramel Spread as a topping for fruit! None of the recipes I tried had a cooked or baked component so it’s really easy to pull one of these recipes together. I made 9 recipes over the course of a morning. This is what I really appreciated about the book: that all of the recipes are accessible to any level of cook. Aside from a food processor, you don’t need much in the way of specialized equipment.
Making your own food is way more healthful than buying it however I find it difficult to call a treat “healthy.” Ingredients that are whole foods are good but they still contain sugar, fat, and calories so it’s still key for me to enjoy these like a treat — one or two, once in awhile. Moderation is always a good thing. Interestingly, what I did find that unlike conventional sweets and candy I found there is more satiation with these homemade balls (I have a couple and don’t feel the need to gorge on them until there are none left). She does offer a whole chapter on savoury recipes — I’m dying to try her Rainbow Sushi Balls and her Seeded Buckwheat Bread.
What Bliss Bites offers is an easy way to make delicious snacks and treats from scratch using whole food ingredients. Now, in case you’re wondering what happened to all the beautiful bites I made: most of them got put into the freezer! With the types of ingredients used these recipes really lend themselves well to freezer storage. So whenever someone is looking for a small indulgence or a snack they’re ready to go! If you’d like to see what I’ve been whipping up from this gorgeous cookbook checkout my custom hashtag #eatworthyblissbites or my dedicated Facebook post.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Raincoast Books and Hardie Grant Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.