Every year I try to create at least one recipe using ground cherries. From the very beginning of Green Gal of the Midwest, a ground cherry recipe has been on the blog—everything from salad to pie to chutney. Ground cherries are not a familiar fruit—in fact, they are really not a fruit at all. They are kin to tomatoes and tomatillos. And they wear that cute little paper dress with such flair!

They are also local, delicious and nutritious, and we should all be eating them while they are in season. The possibilities are endless…well, nearly…and they make the perfect healthy snack. To prove a point let me give you a scenario:

It is Wednesday afternoon about 4 p.m. Your children have just come home from school, wired, loud and HUNGRY. Dinner isn’t until 6 p.m., and the last thing they need is processed sugar and hydrogenated oils that are in most ready-made snacks. But, hey, you got this. You hand them a Ground Cherry Chew right out of the frig, gluten-free with no processed anything, full of healthy and satisfying fats, and only a tablespoon or two of natural honey or molasses. One chew (well maybe two) will help them fend off hunger for the next two hours, I promise.

Ok, so every kid is a bit different, but if your little ones like fruity, nutty chews, you should really give this recipe a try. It takes a little prep—something for the weekend when the kids can get involved—who doesn’t like rolling slightly sticky balls in shredded coconut, hemp seeds and cocoa powder? Then you are all set with a week’s worth of healthy snacks that your children helped prepare. I’ve given you two versions to start with; after that, it’s up to you and your creativity. So be brave.

One last thing before we pull out the food processor: these recipes not only feature ground cherries but also my friend Angie Carl’s amazing flavored Coconut Butter. I’ve featured Angie’s company My Coconut Kitchen on the blog before, so if you’ve never taken the hint and tried her low sugar, organic coconut butters, now is the time! She’s in local stores (Missouri and Illinois) and also online, so buying her butters is easy. And, she’s got even more recipe’s waiting for you…

Green Gal Ground Cherry Chews

Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: about 2 dozen chews

Serving Size: 1 or 2 chews

Green Gal Ground Cherry Chews

Ingredients

    For the Fresh Fruit Chews
  • One to one and a half cups ground cherries, hulled, washed and dried
  • Four fresh organic apricots, washed, pitted and chopped or one large, slightly unripe organic peach, washed, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • Four large dried white organic mission figs, stemmed and chopped
  • One-half cup each pistachios, pecan halves, walnut halves, raw hulled sunflower seeds, almond meal and dried raw, unsweetened coconut (You need three cups dry ingredients, but the individual ingredients can vary. Cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts are also lovely but can go to butter really quickly, so careful pulsing here.)
  • One teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • One teaspoon ground ginger
  • One-half teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • Two tablespoons hulled hemp seeds
  • One teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
  • One-half cup My Coconut Kitchen® Toasted Coconut Butter
  • One-quarter cup raw honey
  • For the Chocolate Chia Chews
  • Two cups ground cherries, hulled, washed and dried
  • One-half cup each dried organic apricots (must be soft, organic, unsulfured) and Medjool dates, chopped
  • One cup pecan halves
  • One-quarter cup chia seeds
  • One-half cup almond meal
  • One-half cup dried raw, unsweetened coconut
  • One teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • One teaspoon ground ginger
  • Two tablespoons hulled hemp seeds
  • One-half cup My Coconut Kitchen® Mocha Espresso Butter
  • One tablespoon unsulfured blackstrap molasses

Instructions

  1. Have all ingredients prepped and ready to go for whichever version you are making. Place everything but the My Coconut Kitchen® Coconut Butter and the liquid sweetener in the processor and pulse until everything is thick and pasty. Try not to over process, especially if you are using fresh apricots or peaches or if you’ve chosen softer nuts like cashews or pine nuts over walnuts.
  2. If you do not have a large-bowl processor, you will want to do what I do: divide your ingredients up and make two batches. I process all the dry ingredients first; then, divide it up and add fresh fruit and process again. Only pulse until you have that thick paste.
  3. Once you have a thick, smooth fruit and nut paste, transfer it to a large bowl. Heat the My Coconut Kitchen® Coconut Butter and either the honey or molasses (depending on which version you are making) in a small pan over low heat until melted and smooth. Mix the melted mixture into your fruit and nut paste until well combined.
  4. Now spread your mixture into a parchment paper-lined pan to about one-inch thick. A 13 X 9 works well. Chill well—at least 4 hours or preferably longer. Chilling your “dough” will make it much easier to roll out your balls for the final step.
  5. To create your chews, take the fruit and nut mixture from the frig and roll into one-inch balls. As you complete each ball you can roll in a topping, like toasted or raw coconut, hemp seeds, finely ground nuts or even cocoa powder. Be creative and brave.

Notes

The prep time refers to the time it takes to put the chew dough together (1 hour) and the time it takes to roll them out (30 minutes). Although, if you have help in the kitchen, it could go faster. I guess it could go slower, too. Kinda depends on the help. Store your Ground Cherry Chews on a plate in the frig, where they will be at the ready for all hungry snackers. Use within one week or so. However, the longer they sit the more the texture seems to improve. Note that these snacks are not shelf stable. If you take them to work or on a picnic, you’ll need to keep them nice and cold. No one wants a soggy chew.

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Ground Cherry Alternatives

Ground Cherries all gone? Never could find them? Well, no worries. You can replace them with a firm organic peach or nectarine, a few extra fresh organic apricots or even a firm but ripe peeled mango. Who knows, fall pears and apples will be dropping from the tree soon—any variety that is fairly firm will work, I think, as long as they are not too juicy. In a pinch, go with a double measurement of your favorite organic dried fruits. Be brave. And, if you were clever enough to freeze your ground cherries, I think you can add them in according to the recipes above as long as you thaw them first.

Why Does She Insist on Organic?

Dried fruit is one of my favorite ingredients, especially as warmer-season fruits disappear. But dried fruits can be anything but healthy if they are laden with sulfites (which keeps their color intact but actually gives them a rubbery texture and bitter taste—not to mention is a known common allergen) and can contain high concentrations of pesticides. The fruits I’m suggesting for your chews, for example, are at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen—peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs. Pay a few pennies more and get safe, organic fruit that actually tastes good and is soft and chewy. Make your chews planet and kid friendly!

But What About the Lunch Box?

Well, you got me there; my Ground Cherry Chews are not shelf-stable. They must remain refrigerated, and they will begin to go mushy if left on the counter for more than 30 minutes. That said, I still have ideas for you and that lunch box (or perhaps boxes!) you fill every morning—the Blogger Box comes to the rescue again!

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