I love these little energetic things. The perfect way of cramming loads of nutrition and energy into the smallest possible area. These little balls are packed with protein power and full-on flavour and are highly portable! They went down a treat yesterday, I had to share them with you.
Nuts and dried fruits are nutritional power houses and contain vast amounts of good stuff; sugars and fats. The last two should of course be enjoyed in moderation and these little balls are perfectly portion controlled. Unless you make them the size of a cricket ball ( I prefer more of a squash ball size and smaller) then you’ll be getting the optimum levels of everything you need from a revitalising, healthy between meal booster.
I have kept these very simple and natural. No added flavours, just the nuts, seeds and fruit. I like to use seeds primarily because they taste amazing, but they are also less expensive and work just as well as nuts. I used a good mixture of nuts, but you can mix and match with whatever you have handy. Nuts like walnuts, cashews and almonds blend smooth, it is more tough to get a Brazil nut to play ball! This is great when mixed with other nuts, adds a crunchy texture. The same can be said for sunflower seeds, once soaked they blend up nicely, unlike pumpkin seeds which take a little more blitzing action. If you have a high powered blender, non of this really applies, as they will take care of anything you put into them. They’d quite happily blend a bean tin I’m sure (this is an untested theory).
BENEFITS OF SOAKING YOUR NUTS
I mention nut soaking quite a lot in Peace & Parsnips, I think its important to know about and can really accentuate the flavour, texture and nutritional properties of nuts and seeds. It takes a little forward planning but is very much worth it. Nutrients are tucked away in our food and in some occasions, are missed by our bodies. They are not available to the body, so we miss out on all the goodness. This is known as the ‘bio-availability’ of nutrients and soaking nuts in water before using them opens up the nutrients to be absorbed by the body. They have known this for thousands of years in India and soaked almonds are promoted within the Ayurvedic diet for a number of health boosting reasons.
Soaking nuts in water, preferably overnight, inhibits the potentially harmful effects of enzymes inhibitors, tannins and toxins in nuts. Nature doesn’t want seeds and nuts to germinate until the right conditions are present, by soaking nuts and seeds we are creating these conditions. They literally come to life! Enzymes are essential to good health, just as important as minerals and vitamins. Soaking releases more beneficial enzymes that our bodies love. Most nuts also taste better after they have been soaked, they plump up nicely and become crisp. We normally soak to order, but you can soak in bulk. This just means that your nuts need to be dried out a little. You can do this in a dehydrator or in a low oven. The nuts can then be stored in a air tight container and used on cereals and salads.
TOP FIVE REASONS TO SOAK NUTS, SEEDS (AND LEGUMES)
1 – Increase the amount of vitamins, especially B vitamins
2 – Produce greater levels of beneficial enzymes
3 – To make digestion easier
4 – Allows easier absorption of protein
5 – To limit enzyme inhibitors, tannins and potentially harmful toxins
We soak nuts in warm water and some people add a little salt. Cover the nuts and leave them overnight, between 7 – 24 hours is best. That’s it!
REASONS TO LOVE TAHINI (AND SESAME SEEDS)
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is one of our favourite ingredients. A wonderful source of vegan creaminess that creeps into dressings, sauces, stews/ curry’s or mixed with jam/ molasses/ maple syrup and lathered on toast and crackers. Tahini normally comes in light and dark varieties, dark has a much more toasted, full flavour. Its not only the delicious aspects of tahini that are attractive, nutritionally its a proper superstar, its is actually one of the best sources of calcium found in nature and also keeps your skin vibrant and muscles toned. It contains 20% protein which is higher than most nuts and is high in very good fats of the unsaturated variety. See our Foodie Fact below for more nutritional bits and pieces.
Feel free to sweeten them as you see fit (taste the mix before rolling up) but I think they are mighty fine with just the apricots. Good dried apricots will not be bright orange. Try and get some un-sulphured apricots, they are out there and well worth the effort and slightly higher expense. Hunza apricots especially (from Afghanistan) are really interesting. If you are living in an area where loads of apricots grow, you could dry your own and even use the kernels instead of nuts or seeds. Apricot kernels are delicious and becoming quite popular in the UK.
We love to play around with combinations of nuts, seeds and flavourings. The possibilities are huge and its much more satisfying and cheaper to make these at home. The main thing is having a dried fruit to bind everything together, normally soaked so that they break down nicely into a sticky paste. Then add nuts and seeds to the equation, any type that takes your fancy and flavour with things like citrus zest, cocoa/ cacao, rose water, orange blossom water, vanilla extract, pomegranate molasses, spices……etc. Energy balls are a medium for a healthy snack charged with all the nutrition we need when leading an active and healthy life.
The Bits – For 12-15 energy balls
300g mixed nuts and seeds (soaked in water for at least 7 hours beforehand. I used cashew, walnuts, brazils and sunflower seeds)
150g dried apricots (soaked in water for at least 1 hour before hand)
4 tbs toasted sesame seeds
2-3 tbs light tahini
2-4 tbs sweetener (maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)
Drain your nuts and place in your blender/ food processor. Blend them for a minute of so, scraping down the sides of the blender a few times. Add the drained apricots and continue to blend until a chunky paste is formed. You can keep the apricot soaking water, its lovely and sweet. The mix should be sticky, you will be able to form small balls with it between our fingers. Stir in the tahini and sweetener (if using).
Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate and spread out. With damp hands (stops the balls sticking to your fingers) take a roughly squash ball sized amount of mix (3-4 tbsp) and roll in your palms into a ball. Pop it onto the plate and roll in the sesame seeds. Apply a little pressure when doing this to make them stick. Place the finished ball onto a serving plate. Repeat until all the mix is used up.
These energy balls will firm up in the fridge and keep well in a plastic container out of the fridge. Of course, they will not be lasting that long…..!
These type of energy balls are designed to be portable and travel perfectly. They are especially good sustenance when exercising, down the gym or hiking. They are a boost anytime and sometimes I like to nibble one before a busy day in the kitchen. Intensely nutritious and easy to roll.
Tahini is a great friend of the BHK. Very high in many vitamin B’s and vitamin E. It also contains lot of minerals like iron and potassium and contains chemicals that help our liver detox. Tahini is alkaline which makes it easy to digest and helps with weight loss. As mentioned above it is very high in protein and even higher in calcium. Try a scoop of tahini in the morning instead of dairy products and you are covering yourself for calcium and a healthy raft of other things.
Have you met Cosmos yet? He’s our new garden cat. You may remember our dear Buster who has moved on…….where to we are not sure> Cosmos is a character and it’s good to have him hanging out, lying down and occasionally purring. Cats are great teachers in so many ways.