Thursday, February 23, 2012

Recipe Thursday: Snack Time

I can't believe it's Thursday night already- this week has flown by! Yesterday I was talking to Jessica and she asked what the heck I was eating now that I've eschewed cheese, sugar, and gluten, foods that were pretty prominent in my diet before my recent upgrades. What's left to eat? Well, pretty much every different combination of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and rice (as well as other gluten-free grains that I haven't been brave enough to try) that you could ever think of. Yes, it can seem sort of limited, especially if you're like me and tend to rely on processed and convenience foods. But I've found I'm getting more creative in the kitchen and better at gauging how much food to eat in a day and I'm really starting to get the hang of things. For example, here's what I ate yesterday:

-Morning Smoothie- spring mix, pear, celery, frozen raspberries, sprouts, banana, hemp and flax powder
-A big piece of banana bread (gluten, vegan, AND sugar free!)
-Taco Salad Fiesta- beans, rice, butter lettuce, carrots, jalapeno, corn, red bell pepper, cucumber and Spicy Southwestern dressing
-snack ball (see recipe below)
-Green Juice- romaine lettuce, broccoli stems, cucumber, celery, green apple, lemon
-Workout Smoothie (split in half for before/after my workout)- tangerine, collard greens, frozen pineapple and mango, banana, celery, sprouts, hemp/flax
-another snack ball
-chopped veggies with homemade raw/vegan ranch dressing:

carrots, broccoli, grape tomatoes, yellow/orange bell pepper
This dressing turned out really great! It came from the recipes section at the end of Crazy Sexy Diet, and it actually does bear some semblance to regular ranch dressing, minus the copious amount of fat.

I am a notorious snacker, so when I got sugar as my ABC for last week I knew that I would need to find something that satisfied my sweet cravings. Carl will vouch for the fact that when I crave a food, particularly sweets, I turn completely savage. I needed something relatively easy and inexpensive to make, easy to eat, and sweet (but in a healthy way) to fill the snack void in my life before my cravings got the best of me. Ever-popular in the raw/vegan community under many different aliases is what I like to call the snack ball (aka earth balls, power balls, energy balls, etc). These balls have about a 1:1 dried fruit to nut/seed ratio, and often feature "superfoods"- hemp seeds, cacao, spirulina, chlorella, etc. They're a great portable little snack and a much healthier alternative to traditional processed granola bars. The first time I made them I just used raisins, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. You just toss all the ingredients into a food processor and let it run for a minute or two until the mixture reaches a gooey consistency and can easily be formed into balls. The second time I kicked it up a notch and incorporated some of the other nuts and goodies that we had on hand.

Raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews,
ground flaxseed, and hemp protein powder 
These were even better than the first batch. The additional nuts gave the balls more flavor, particularly the cashews.

Here's the "dough" before forming it into balls
And here they are! I put them on a cookie sheet and let them harden up in the fridge and then transfer them to a Tupperware container. This was a little over 3 cups of raisins and nuts combined and it yielded 28 balls- Carl stole one before I had the chance to take the picture. He's sneaky.

Tonight I really took things to the next level and decided to make cocoa snack balls. I picked up some cacao powder at EarthFare the other day, and was dying to use it in something. Raw cocoa, or cacao (I always feel a little pretentious saying cacao, don't you?), is rich in iron, antioxidants, and magnesium, with the added bonus of not having its nutritional benefits be completely overshadowed by sugar and other additives normally found in chocolate. I added 1/4 cup of it to my snack ball recipe and was thrilled when they turned out to be absolutely magical. I imagine that once more time goes by these will taste just like brownies to me. I haven't quite gotten to that point, but it's only a matter of time before my taste buds forget what brownies taste like. 

And, to prove how easy it is to substitute any kind of nut you want and still get good results, here's tonight's recipe:

This picture turned out really fuzzy for some reason, but this is a handy little silicone measuring cup that I just throw my ingredients into in a hodge-podge manner before they all go into the food processor.

From bottom to top we have
-1 1/2 cups raisins (you can also use dates but they're a little more expensive and harder to find at a normal grocery store)
-about 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
-about 1/2 cup almonds
-maybe 1/4 cup of walnuts

Once I dumped this mixture into the food processor I added about a tablespoon each of ground flax and hemp seeds as well as the  1/4 cup of cacao. I let it process for about 2 minutes and that's it! I think I made the balls a little bigger this time, so I only ended up with 20, which I seriously doubt will last through the weekend. They are so stinking good.

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