Energy Balls (Vegan Hiking Snack)

I have been reading the blog Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon for a while now. She showcases vegan recipes that are tasty, nutritious, and show that vegan food does not consist solely of salads. I’m always fascinated by her recipes—I’m not vegan, but I like thinking about cooking vegan.

To me, any food/dietary restriction is like a challenge, whether it is being kosher, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc (and it’s especially challenging if it is more than one of those!). When I was in college, I lived in an 18-person co-op that had several vegans, many vegetarians, and many meat lovers. We all took turns cooking meals, and while we could make almost anything we wanted, the rules were that it had to be food everyone could eat. So we became experts at making side-by-side foods, like spaghetti with meat sauce and a vegan sauce. Or easily convertible foods, like mashed potatoes (vegan margarine instead of butter/milk—it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference).

I also like that vegan foods often challenge me to eat healthier, by focusing a lot on fruits/veggies/grains. (Don’t get me wrong, though, there are a lot of unhealthy vegan recipes out there! Chocolate chip cookies are still dessert, even if you make them with Earth Balance instead of butter.) So periodically I try out a vegan recipe to see if it will work in my life. Today I tried a great one!

This morning, in preparation for a hike in the Blue Hills, I whipped up a modified version of Angela’s recipe for dark chocolate energy bites. It took around ten minutes total, used ingredients I had on hand, and involved no baking or cooking. The combination of fruit and nuts and chocolate was perfect for the midpoint of our hike—there was sugar to jump start our engines, and protein to keep us going until our late, very non-vegan lunch at Miami Restaurant.

Recipe: The real beauty of this recipe is that you can vary the basic ingredients based on what you have on hand. The essential elements are sticky dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate. If you don’t get the consistency right, just add more of whatever you need until you do! I put one cup of almonds into a hand-held food processor and finely ground them. Setting aside 1/4th of a cup of the almonds, I put the rest in a bowl. Then I blended a generous handful of apricots with about a third of a cup of dried cranberries and a quarter of a bar of dark chocolate. Once that was all finely chopped, I threw it into the bowl with the almonds and stirred until it was well-mixed. It was a little dry (probably because my apricots weren’t as moist as they could’ve been), so I added some non-vegan moisture with a bit of honey. You could also use agave syrup or maple syrup. Then I picked up about a tablespoon or so of the mix in my hand and squeezed and rolled it into a ball. My balls were about the size of Lindt truffle balls. (This is a well-known comparative measurement in my life!) I rolled each one in the reserved ground almonds, and then set aside.

You can freeze or refrigerate the balls if you’re not going to eat them right away. I found that after a few hours in the freezer, they became much more like a solid mass rather than a bunch of ingredients stuck together. But either way they were delicious! This batch made about 14 balls—two per person on the hike was a great little snack. (Honestly, I would’ve had a third if I’d brought more!) I will definitely be making them again.

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