Last weekend several hundred people gathered at Kripalu to honor the life of Swami Kripalu, who would have turned 100 years old in January. I like to think of Swami Kripalu as the energetic founder of Kripalu, even though he did not directly have a to-do list that included any of the typical to-dos one has when starting an organization. The celebration brought back fond memories for me of the many celebrations we would have during the days when Kripalu was an ashram. It also brought back many familiar faces from those days!
Hopefully we all agree that an important component to any celebration is the inclusion of a little something sweet. In the Kripalu tradition back in the day, this little something sweet at the end of a celebration was often a small ball consisting of dried fruit and nuts rolled in coconut or more nuts. Knowing that many folks who had been residents at Kripalu would be here for the celebration, I wanted to bring back that wonderful ending to the event. So I spent the morning blending and then rolling several hundred Almond Date Balls. As I rolled each one I silently repeated the mantra (a sort of prayer) that we as Kripalu residents were taught and then chanted often: “Om Namah Bhagavate Vasudevya”. With each mantra for every ball I rolled, I noticed my body and breath relax and my heart open. Rolling the balls became a joyful experience and seemed to take a short amount of time.
In the Indian tradition, when food is offered as prayer it’s often called prasad, and it’s said to contain the energy of the prayer. Later that afternoon when our many guests and old friends joyfully ate the prasad, and we took time to connect and reconnect, I thought, Why would I ever want to make food in any other way? Isn’t every meal, everyone I cook for, worthy of the love that a prayer is, at its core? Swami Kripalu was famous for his saying, “I’m a pilgrim of love.” What if each of us decided to follow that path in how we cook and offer food to ourselves and others? To be chefs of love?
Below, I lovingly offer my recipe for Almond Date Balls. Feel free to experiment with a variety of dried fruit, nuts, and spices. With the power of a loving prayer, I’m sure whatever you make will be joyfully received!
Almond Date Balls
Makes 12–20, depending on size (but you will want to make more!)
8 whole pitted dates
¼ cup raisins
½ cup raw whole almonds
1 teaspoon ghee (optional)
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon plus ground cardamom (to taste)
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup ground coconut or nut of choice
Soak the dates and raisins in hot water for 5 minutes. In a food processor grind the almonds (but not until they become pasty). Drain the dates and raisins (saving the soaking water) and add to the food processor with the ghee (if using), honey, cardamom, and vanilla.
Mix until the dried food is well blended, but be careful not to over blend or it will become a paste. You may need to use a little bit of the fruit soaking water to get the right consistency, especially if you’re not using ghee. (The balls taste nicer with a little bit of texture.)
Remove mixture from blender and roll into small balls. Roll each ball into either ground coconut or ground nuts. Refrigerate balls before serving; balls will keep for two weeks in the refrigerator.