Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Orange Zest

Ben & I are entering into our first time counseling gig.  I humor myself calling it a gig.  We have the privilege of serving as a guiding couple to three non-married & non-engaged couples through our church's pre-engagement course.  
It's a 10 week class, where the couples answer lots of questions, fill out family history background & work through a lot the hidden dimensions of marriage.  They get to see whether this significant other is compatible for them to make the big step of engagement.  And I realize a "pre-engagement" class sounds rather odd compared to the widely known, "pre-marital."  
We went through the class ourselves back in 2000, and found out more about ourselves as individuals, as a couple and if our values & interests (and so much more) aligned with one another.  We love being able to speak into young people's lives, especially surrounding something as sacred as marriage.  Too often in our culture (regardless of Christian or not), entering into marriage without weathering the seasons of life together can bring more stress & turmoil than needed when making the covenant.  This is one primary reason we love being able to invest in the lives of individuals who are seeking out marriage with such intention.  
One other aspect of this 10 week period is each couple gets to work together to bring a dessert or appetizer for their designated night.  Most times, as you might have gathered, when bringing a dessert to a get together there is a bit of pressure.  Pressure to measure up & pressure by time pressing in.  I made these Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with the essence of fresh orange zest a couple weeks back.  I was looking for something easy & relatively healthy to serve as a "treat" for my girls & their little friends.  These hit that spot.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Orange Zest (printable recipe)

I have used the word "raw" in the recipe title, but I didn't use raw cocoa for these cookies.  Thereby, they are not 100% raw.  However, if your diet is of such, then sub out the cocoa for raw cocoa.  

2 cups hazelnuts
1/2 cup cocoa, unsweetened 
1/4 tsp sea salt
zest of one orange
18 dates, pitted medjool
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup maple syrup or raw honey
1 Tb. cocoa nibs

Place your hazelnuts into a food processor.  Process until resembling coarse hazelnut meal, basically you want to have the hazelnuts avoiding that hazelnut butter stage.
Add cocoa, salt, orange zest & medjool dates and process again.  The dates should start to bring the mixture together into a ball, but not quite.  You may want to hit pulse about 5-7 times to see how it looks.  
Add the coconut oil, maple syrup & cocoa nibs.  Pulse 5-7 times, until the mixture is holding together nicely. You may want to remove the lid to see how it sticks together.  If it's not quite forming a ball easily, pulse a couple more times until it does.  
Taking 2 Tb at a time, form them into balls & slightly flatten to place them on parchment or foil.  Top with orange zest & eat.  
These will keep at room temperature and/or the fridge.