Hibiscus-Mint “Simplici-tea” Sparklers

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“Simplici-tea” has become my summer mantra (and beverage), and is the perfect pairing for a mini stay-cation under my patio umbrella.  Here’s my equation for summer relaxation:  Self + tea + pleasant weather + furry companion + sketchbook, MINUS to-do lists, MINUS FOMO (fear of missing out on all the things I’m not doing at the moment), MINUS technology = PDH (Pretty Darn Happy).  The cymbal playing monkey in my brain tells me I have to do more-more-more.  Create!  Do!  Clean!  Go!  March lady, march! 

Step back, obnoxious chimp, I got some resetting to do!

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I’m generally a fan of positive self-talk, but lately, I’ve been putting myself in time out.  Go to the patio, young lady, and don’t come back until you’ve put your feet up, sipped your tea, and smelled some flowers!  And don’t talk back I’ve found that even 5 or 10 minutes of this kind of intentional relaxation changes how I move about the rest of my day. HibiscusMintSimplici-teaSparklers@Spoonwithme.com (5 of 13)

While one could feasibly relax without a special drink, nothing says intentional relaxation like a carefully concocted iced tea sparkler. This drink says simple with a side of “that’s right monkeys, I’m relaxing!”  This is not the drink you grab as you run out the door, arms full of the whose-its and whats-its you need to complete your tasks of the day.   It starts with crushed mint and squeezed lime, like the beginnings of a mojito.  In goes the iced tea and fizzy water, and sweetener as you like it.

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I have a hunch that simplicity might not have to be so complicated after all!

I’d love to know your personal equation for relaxation!  Please share yours, and any other tips for “simplici-tea” and learning how to “just be”  in the comments below.

Hibiscus-Mint Simplici-tea Sparklers  

Makes 1 gallon

  • 4 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 4 cups strongly brewed hibiscus tea, cooled (I used Tazo passion iced tea bags)
  • 8 cups club soda
  • 4 cups ice
  • Stevia, agave nectar, or other sweetener to taste

Place the lime halves and mint leaves in the bottom of a large pitcher.  Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, crush and smash the limes and mint to release the juice.  Add the hibiscus tea, ice, club soda, and sweetener.  Adjust proportions of ingredients to suit your taste.  Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate.  The tea will keep its bubbliness for about 3 days.

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Denver Omelet Cups with Smoked Salmon

DenverOmeletCups@Spoonwithme.com (8 of 11)   DenverOmeletCups@Spoonwithme.com (11 of 11)

Holy egg dish, it’s been a while since I last posted!  Life has been like an agility course this past year.  Jump through this hoop.  And THIS one!  Now spin around!  Wait…wait…think fast!  Catch the spiky ball of doom—WAIT!   Don’t catch the spiky ball of doom!  I had a rough go this past year—radiation, starting a cancer drug, and working through some pain that lingered from fall to spring.  Food didn’t taste good, and pain prevented me from doing many of the things I love, like yoga, and cooking, etc, etc, etc…  Cancer’s a son of a blankity blank that tries to bewitch your brain into thinking that you can’t enjoy your life as much, but that’s a lie!

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I’ve had to become as adaptable as one of those crazy angler fish deep in the sea.  No light?!?  I’ll create my own to lure you into my creepy teeth (okay, maybe sans the teeth).  I now do what my friend Carol calls “Jenny Morgenthaler yoga”.  It’s the buffet method of vinyasa flow, where you plop your hiney on a yoga mat, and you only do the really yummy poses.  The rest of the time, you sit and imagine doing that perfect handstand or crow with a dazed half smile on your face that says “I do what I want!”.

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My cooking style has had to adapt to my ever-morphing taste buds.  At first, I was a little paralyzed.  WHAT?  My spice tolerance has gone down to practically zero?!  Spicy food consumption used to be my badge of honor!  Challenges in life force us to either adapt or roll over, and so do challenges in the kitchen!  My lack of spice tolerance has led me to discover new flavor combinations I would have overlooked before.  Life without challenge doesn’t require any creative finagling, and creative finagling is the key to inventing and living in new ways.

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My gateway dish back to creating in the kitchen again was these egg cups.  I found a version on marthastewart.com, and I was so seduced by the fanciness, I just had to give them a try.  Any sauteéd veggies would work in this application.  I used green onions and sweet peppers, and topped the whole thing with smoked salmon.  I’m not as much of a fan of “fluffy” breakfasts.  You know, those sweet pastry-centered things that are definitely delicious, but leave you with nothing but a sugar spike, then brain fog.   My favorite breakfasts have some substance, not just a pretty face.  This one has a combination of sautéed veggies, smoky salmon, and golden hash browns which are the perfect way to mop up the egg yolk.  I hope you enjoy this version, and that it will inspire you to develop your own combinations of ingredients.

I’ll end with the wisdom of my friend, the egg:  when life cracks you open, let your sunny side help you discover delicious new possibilities!

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Denver Omelet Cups with Smoked Salmon

These egg cups look complicated, but come together simply.  The only tricky step is removing them from the pan in one piece.    If your muffin tin isn’t nonstick, use muffin cup liners so that the potato mixture doesn’t stick.  If making without liners, be sure to thoroughly butter each muffin cup.  Once you’ve removed them from the tins, you’re home free!  Chow down and feel fancy!

For the potato cups:

  • 1 large russet potato, peeled, about 1 pound
  • one egg white
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons butter (or vegan butter), melted, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • salt and black pepper to taste

For the filling and topping:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped veggies (I used 4 green onions, and about 1 1/2 cups finely chopped sweet peppers)
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, flaked into small pieces

Preheat oven to 475˚F.  Grate the potato and place in the middle of a clean lint-free dish towel.  Squeeze as much moisture from the shredded potato as possible.  Transfer the potato to a medium bowl, and add the egg white, olive oil, melted butter, salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Grease 4 muffin tins thoroughly with butter (about 1/4 teaspoon per tin). Place a half a cup of shredded potato into each cup. With your hands, firmly press and sculpt a layer of shredded potato into the bottom and sides of each tin to form a cup.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan until hot.  Add the green onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes.

Place a rounded teaspoon of sautéed veggies into each potato cup.  Crack an egg into each cup and sprinkle the top with salt and pepper.  Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes (yolks will still be runny at 10 minutes, and partially set at around 13 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly.  Run a butter knife around the edges of each potato cup to loosen them and remove from the pan.  Garnish with the green onion, remaining sautéed veggies and smoked salmon and serve immediately.


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Vegetarian Sloppy Jens

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When I was a kid, my room was a fire hazard. An obstacle course. A disability claim waiting to happen.  A pig sty, so my parents said.  I was always creating something—well not something, but some things.  Not much has changed.  For better or worse, my brain seems to have been crossed with that of a hummingbird.  Oh look a flower, oh look, another flower!  Another, whee!  Clean your room, they would say.  I would try.  I really would, but then I’d pick up a long lost object that I had been missing for a long time.  Before I knew it, I was elbows deep in a masterpiece.  When mom came up to check on my progress, I’d already be creating my next mess.

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This post is dedicated to all the messies out there.  Sure, we’re fully functional adults now, but that doesn’t mean it’s always pretty.  For all you who are shocked and surprised, Oh dear, how dreadful!  We thought her house was as tidy as those pictures she always posts! , I’m sorry to disillusion you.  My house explodes every time I create something.  As I stand back to admire my creation, it takes a few moments before “Holy cow, who made such a mess?!?  enters my brain.  It takes a whole lot of messy to make pretty.

VegetarianSloppyJens@Spoonwithme.com (8 of 17)

VegetarianSloppyJens@Spoonwithme.com (9 of 17)

VegetarianSloppyJens@Spoonwithme.com (10 of 17)

Through the years, my messes have evolved. And so, we arrive at Sloppy Jens. They’re just as messy as the one-note ones you had as a kid, but built from clean, flavorful ingredients.  When I was making these, I was so seduced by the smell of sautéed fennel, onion and garlic that I didn’t notice the ragtag village of ingredients that had taken up residence on the counters.  The perfect kshhh sound of the deglazing vermouth and the aromatic puff of steam that rose from the pan completely distracted me from the mounting tangle of camera equipment, reflector boards and produce scraps.  When I popped open a quart of last summer’s canned garden tomatoes and slow simmered the sauce with fresh oregano from the garden, it was all over.  Mise en place was a cause lost to another recipe, on another day.

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Messy counters mean good things to come.  If you stop by my house unannounced, you probably won’t marvel at the unscathed majesty of my abode, but chances are, you’ll leave full and happy!


Vegetarian Sloppy Jens

Serves 6-8

These messy little sandwiches are an Italian, vegetarian spin on a childhood favorite, and most definitely require a fork and knife!   This would make a good hearty meatless sauce over pasta as well. 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, finely chopped, greens reserved
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
  • 12 ounces frozen veggie crumbles (I like Quorn brand)
  • 1 12-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (or about 6 cups home canned)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt to taste
  • crushed red pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Microgreens, spinach, or arugula for topping
  • Buns (sprouted grain, gluten-free, or your favorite)

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saucepan.  Add the onion, fennel and celery, and sauté until soft but not browned, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the vermouth, and scrape the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, about one minute.  Add the veggie crumbles and sauté until cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Add the rinsed beans, tomatoes, oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, salt and crushed red pepper.  Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar.  Season to taste with more salt if needed.

Toast the buns in the toaster, or on a baking sheet in an oven under the broiler.  They will toast in about 30 seconds in the broiler, so keep a close eye on them!  If you like both sides toasted, bake them directly on the oven rack in a 350˚ oven for a few minutes.

Generously spoon the filling onto the buns, and top with greens, if desired.


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Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese

veganmacandcheese|Spoonwithme.com (9 of 13)

I have a dirty little secret.  Sometimes I just want to chow down on a bowl of mac and cheese.  You know, the kind with the powdered cheese.  Or the packet of oozy cheese like substance you just stir in.  Thank goodness lactose is my kryptonite, or God help me, I’d probably have tell tale cheese  remnants on my face, bearing the guilty look of my dog Luca, who just so happened to have licked the side of my carrot cake as I write this.

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Oh well.  If I could eat the real ooey-gooey-cheesy version, I wouldn’t have even thought to try the vegan mac and cheese at City O City, one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Denver.  It’s creamy with just a hint of coconut, and satisfies the 5 year old itch inside of me that just wants her mac and cheese now!  I just had to recreate the recipe at home!

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After much experimentation, my version completely satisfies my cravings for the real thing.  It’s coconut and cashew based, with all sorts of tricks I’ve picked up in my efforts to make what is not cheese taste so cheesy, the mouth doesn’t even worry about technicalities.  Forget about those processed vegan cheese products you buy hoping they will fill the void.  This mac is made from all whole food ingredients and good fats, and you can pour it over any type of pasta that suits your needs—I like using whole grain shells or macaroni.   

This recipe has been field tested by skeptical parties and unknowing partakers who have been tricked into noshing before knowing it’s shh—vegan!

We all have dirty little secrets.  Mine just happen to involve cheese!

veganmacandcheese|Spoonwithme.com (11 of 13)

Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese

Serves 6-8

  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1  1/4 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1/2 a small lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound whole grain or gluten free pasta (shells or macaroni will do the trick)

Set a large saucepan of water to boil, generously salt the water, and follow the cooking instructions for the pasta.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small nonstick pan.  Sauté the garlic for 1-2 minutes until soft and just barely golden.

Place the cashews and nutritional yeast in the bowl of a blender or food processor.  Blend until the cashews are a sandy texture.  Add the sautéed garlic, coconut milk, miso paste, lemon juice, dijon mustard, tomato paste and turmeric.  Blend until very smooth.  Warm the sauce over medium low heat in a small saucepan.  Stir in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Return the drained pasta to the large saucepan.  Pour in the warmed sauce.  Toss and stir until well coated.  Heat over medium low heat if needed.


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Rosemary Tortilla Española with Watercress Sauce

RosemarytortillaEspañola|Spoonwithme.com (13 of 13)

I had to google myself today.  Not to see if my fame has taken over the internet.  Not to make sure the paparazzi hasn’t posted any pictures of me without makeup outside my mini mansion (ha!).  Not even because I haven’t posted in so long that I had to check on myself (glad to be back, by the way!).  I had to google myself, because I really couldn’t believe I haven’t posted this recipe yet, because it’s such a staple in our house.

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The Mister and I first had a taste (or many tastes) of this dish when traveling around Spain a few years ago.   Tapas bar?  Tortilla Española.  Sandwich place?  Tortilla Española between two slices of crusty bread, with an obscene amount of mayonnaise (which I believe is Spain’s national condiment).  Dinner?  You guessed it, Tortilla Española served atop a big hunk of bread.  I think that in Spain, farmers have trained special breeds of hens to lay their eggs, harvest potatoes, and immediately turn them into Tortilla Española.

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Why is this dish so good?  It’s so basic. Tortilla has nothing to do with the wraps we are used to.  Rather, it’s a Spanish Omelette, similar to a fritatta, made with thinly sliced potatoes and onions sauteed in what you’ll think is way too much olive oil, then nestled in a pillow of eggs.  Traditionally, it’s started on the stove, finished off in the oven, then the entire thing is flipped over so that the new top is spotted golden brown.

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Sometimes keeping the tortilla in one piece as you flip it is iffy, depending on your pan. The method that works for me is to give it a short stint under the broiler, and to serve it right out of the pan.  I also add fresh minced rosemary as a twist on the original version.  Taking a cue from the Spaniards, I usually whip up a batch of some sort of aioli, such as garlic or sundried tomato.  This time, I was craving something with a hit of freshness, so I created a tangy, herbacious sauce from nutrient-dense watercress, which complemented the richness of the tortilla.

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Tortilla Española makes a great crowd-pleasing breakfast or brunch dish, but how we most enjoy it here in the Spoon house is for dinner over a crusty slice of bread, drizzled or dolloped with whatever sauce or aioli materializes out of ingredients we already have.  It comes together in less than 30 minutes, and as a bonus, can be eaten for breakfast in the morning as well.

Muy delicioso.  Now all I have to do is work on training those hens.

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Rosemary Tortilla Española with Watercress Sauce

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Best International Recipe


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 10 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • watercress sauce for serving (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425˚f.  Heat the oil in a 10 inch oven-proof pan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the potatoes, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring, and scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally (the potatoes tend to stick), until the potatoes and onions are soft.

In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the rosemary in a medium bowl until well combined and slightly frothy.  Add the eggs to the pan with the cooked potatoes and onions.  Gently and quickly stir and fold in the eggs to combine.  Cook an additional 2-3 minutes on the stovetop, until the eggs begin to set.

Transfer to the middle rack of the oven and bake until the top is puffed and the eggs are set, about 9 minutes.  Switch the oven to broil, and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until the top is spotted golden.

Allow to cool slightly.  Either slice and serve directly from the pan, or loosen the edges with a rubber spatula, and flip the tortilla onto a serving plate.  Serve with watercress sauce.


Watercress Sauce

Is it a vinaigrette?  Is it an aioli?  Maybe on both accounts.  It’s creamier than a vinaigrette, and looser than an aioli.   Call it what you want, but what matters is that it’s packed with nutrition, and is bright and herbaceous, a perfect contrast to the richness of the Tortilla Española!

  • 1 bunch watercress, upper stems and leaves only, about 1 cup packed
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Puree all ingredients using an immersion blender (or regular blender).


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Pumpkin Spice Steamers (vegan, gf)


Pumpkinsteamers | Spoonwithme.com

I can’t believe that this Thanksgiving has almost gotten away from me without posting.  I couldn’t let this day of friends and feasting pass by without wishing you a very happy one!

Asian Quinoa Salad | Spoonwithme.com-2

I’ve been nose to nose with some challenges this fall, and I say the following to myself as much as to you.  Let’s start this holiday season by being as nice to ourselves as we would a good friend, or a cute kid in the grocery store.  Let’s smile at ourselves.  Laugh!  Treat ourselves!

Asian Quinoa Salad | Spoonwithme.com-3

And speaking of, treats, here’s how I kicked off this morning of Thanksgiving cooking—with a tasty pumpkin spice steamer.  I don’t regret to inform you that these steamers are light years away from those syrup-y $5 drinks from that one place we all love to go to.  They’re rich, lightly sweetened, and scented with spices and pumpkin.  Think a lighter, less sweet version of pumpkin pie.  Something to sip on during all the cozy days of cooking to come.

I hope that you have an increasing amount of things to be grateful for this year!  Happy Thanksgiving!



Pumpkin Spice Steamers

Makes about 4 8-ounce servings

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup canned light coconut milk
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, maple syrup, stevia, or other sweetener to taste*

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and mix until well combined and frothy.  Transfer to a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until hot.  Serve immediately, garnished with a dusting of cinnamon.

*I used about 2 tablespoons maple syrup


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Cinnamon Toasted Coconut Snack Bites (gf, vegan)


Cinnamon Bites | Spoonwithme.com-51

The other day, I had a major craving for a cookie.  In particular, a snickerdoodle.  It was about to be one of those I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t get that cookie moments.  I’ve seen lots of recipes for nutritious sweet snack bites on Pinterest, and wondered if I could get my sweet fix with something a little better—okay, substantially better for me—than a cookie. 

Cinnamon Bites | Spoonwithme.com

So, I used my very limited amount of left brained-ness, and analyzed the snickerdoodle.  What was I after?   It wasn’t my goal to recreate the snickerdoodle.  I think sometimes when we make too many substitutions trying to make something healthier taste exactly like the original, we end up not getting what we want.  My very scientific analysis told me that I was craving something toasty, sweet, and cinnamony, with notes of vanilla. 

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The combination of toasted almonds, toasted coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon blended in the food processor released a lovely fragrance. I used dates to bind everything together, and a pinch of sea salt, because I can’t get enough of the salty sweet taste. 

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The Mister and I reached the conclusion that they tasted like a cross between a cinnamon donut hole and the yummy gooey cinnamon swirls between the layers of a cinnamon bun.  Since these sweet little dessert-snack bites are full of almonds, and not just empty white flour, I only had to eat two before my sweet tooth was completely satisfied. 

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Are they a dessert?  A pre work-out snack?  An energy bite?  Yes, yes, and yes.  But what’s the best part of all?  They were exactly what I was craving and also full of foods that have more substance and nutritive value than the empty cookie I was dreaming about.   

Snickerdoodle?  What snickerdoodle?

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Cinnamon Toasted Coconut Snack  Bites

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted coconut flakes, or 1 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted (see below)*
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups (packed) pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1) Toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium high heat, stirring often until fragrant and darkened slightly, about 7-8 minutes.  Allow to cool.

2) If using shredded coconut, spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 325˚oven, for 8-10 minutes, stirring halfway through, until lightly golden.  If using toasted coconut flakes, skip to step 2.

3) Blend the toasted coconut in a food processor until it looks like coarse sand.  Reserve 1/3 cup in a small bowl.

4) Add the almonds, cinnamon and sea salt to the food processor with the coconut and blend until the texture of coarse sand.

5) Add the dates and vanilla, and blend until combined and sticking together (test a ball of the mixture by squeezing it into a ball)

6) By the rounded tablespoon, form the mixture into a ball by squeezing and pressing it together.  Repeat for the remain  Roll the cinnamon bites in the reserved coconut crumbs, using your fingers to press the coconut onto the outside of each ball.  Store in an airtight container.

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