Thanks for having me as a guest Rachael!
In Mexico, there is a tradition of making confections called alegrías (happiness) from puffed amaranth. These treats are usually made with honey, molasses, or chocolate mixed with nuts, seeds, and raisins, and are easy to find in Mexico City, Merida, and most major Mexican cities. Amaranth is a very nutritious seed that the Aztecs and Mayans revered. The seeds are high in protein, minerals, fiber, and lysine—they are one of the few plants that are said to contain complete protein. The Aztecs used the seeds in rituals, where they mixed amaranth with honey and human blood (that they got from their sacrifices) to make cakes shaped as idols. The Spaniards found this practice barbaric so they forbade amaranth. Talk about a colorful history! Fortunately, amaranth is being enjoyed once again in confections, breakfast cereals, and ground up in nutritious drinks. The greens of the amaranth plant are also edible and highly nutritious.
I’ve been having a great time playing with all the wonderful foods that are available down here, including amaranth. Since it’s very hot these days (around 34C and humid) I came up with these no-bake treats to satisfy my craving for something sweet, gluten-free and healthy. Besides the puffed amaranth (which you may be able to find in Latin American grocery stores) these contain peanuts, pepitas, and local Mayan honey—all abundant in these parts. The honey comes from special stingless bees that have their hives in hollowed logs. It’s usually a dark golden honey that’s very flavorful and has notes of orange blossom. I always enjoy raw local honey wherever I am, as besides being delicious, it aids in dealing with allergens (local pollens)—at least that’s what I’ve heard!
The following recipe is super easy to make, as well as nutritious and delicious. It’s gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, as well as free of refined sugar (though I wouldn’t recommend this for diabetics). If you’re not into peanuts, I think this would be delicious with roasted almonds instead.
I enjoy these with my sweetheart and a fresh cup of dark roast Chiapas coffee in the afternoon—I hope you enjoy them too!
Makes 6 — 10 servings
*1 1/2 c roasted peanuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (only if your peanuts are unsalted)
5 Tbsp local liquid honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup puffed amaranth
*I like using Spanish peanuts as they have their antioxidant-rich skins still on. You can substitute 1/4 c of the peanuts for 1/4 c roasted pepitas if you like. Roasted almonds would be a great substitute for the peanuts too.
Pulse the peanuts in a food processor till broken up into little bits, then add the cinnamon and salt. Pulse until finely ground just and starting to clump together, then add the honey and vanilla. Pulse until everything is incorporated. (If you don’t have a food processor, grind the nuts in 1/2 c batches in a coffee grinder or blender or even using a hand-crank mill – then mix the ground nuts and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.)
You will have a gooey granular mixture. If there are a few larger peanut chunks that’s OK. Put mixture in a med-large bowl and add 1 c of puffed amaranth. Mix by hand with a strong spoon till well combined. It should be a clumpy sticky mass.
Press mixture into a regular sized loaf pan and smooth with the back of a spoon. (I use a glass loaf pan.) No need to grease the pan because the peanuts are oily. Cover and refrigerate – once chilled it will keep together and be easy to cut into little squares.