In the past, I’ve made a few healthy no-sugar dessert recipes. I made some yummy baked apples that makes a great snack for kids and grown ups alike. Later, I also shared recipe for a no-guilt & absolutely delicious Khajur ki Kheer. There’s a thing about these no-sugar-added sweet treats…you feel so so good indulging in them and they also completely fulfill those frequent sweet tooth cravings, no?
Well this time my focus wasn’t just making it without sugar, but to load a bite-size snack with lots of proteins, fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, teensy bit of good carbs, and all the great nutrients that our body needs regularly. And that’s because I was doing this recipe for a friend who loves sweet and wanted a fun-nibble that’s nutritious and delicious…one that wouldn’t overload her with too many carbohydrates and yet could put a growling tummy to happy peace. Also, she didn’t want another kick from her gym instructor on her bad snacking habits!!
Her request got me working nuts (well literally!), seeds and fruits!! And the Indian in me believes a laddu best represents a fun-snack size. I have extensively used dates before and knew they could hold the other goodness together. However, imagine something tasting too date-y, if you will…I wasn’t walking that lane either! Dried figs and cranberries came to my rescue here. I used an assortment of 5-seeds, 5-fruits, 2-nuts and 3-spices to sum it up. It was also key to bring out the right texture…an amalgamation of that crunch, sweetness and the soft yum. The recipe is very forgiving, adding more of an ingredient you love, substituting, or ignoring one or two shouldn’t affect much of the taste or goodness.
Here’s a quick list of the main ingredients I used and their most prominent nutritional benefits (this will also keep me motivated on why I must refill my stock of these bites when they’re depleted):
- Walnuts → vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants
- Almonds → fiber, protein,magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin E and healthy fats
- Apples → extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fiber
- Figs → fibers, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, potassium and chlorine
- Dates → thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, essential minerals, natural sugars, fibers
- Coconut → fibers, vitamins, manganese, potassium, copper and amino acids
- Cranberry → antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, dietary fibers and pantothenic acid
- Chia seeds → “considered whole grain foods”, loaded with fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various micronutrients
- Sunflower seeds → selenium, bone-healthy minerals, vitamins and healthy source of essential fatty acids like linoleic acid
- Pumpkin seeds → antioxidant phytonutrients, all forms of vitamin E (tocopherols), phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, zinc and iron
- Flax seeds → Omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans, antioxidants, soluble and insoluble fibers
- Sesame seeds → natural oils, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, protein, and tryptophan
Wow, that’s quite a list and unending health benefits isn’t it? Nothing to get overwhelmed with…this recipe calls for a super easy “throw-in-and-mix” method. Then, many of these ingredients are commonly used in most households. The others should be very easily sourceable. Yet again, this one’s a very flexible recipe…and you sure can play around a little with ingredient substitutions and/or ratio changes, based on your convenience and taste preferences.
One late night, exhausted of how the day had treated me, I refused to sleep and demanded some “me time”. Sitting alone on my couch, and while watching my favorite crime series on television, I had reduced half a pound walnuts into shreds, grating them frenetically! Yes, you read it right…I “grated” walnuts!! Pulsing them in a food processor or in a dry blender would’ve taken away more than a tenth of my effort and time. But I do these crazy things to blow off some steam and simmer down. Nonetheless, that night’s “simmering down act” left me with a good box full of walnut meal lying lazy in my refrigerator, waiting for it’s day of holy use.
So I had the craziness-made walnut meal and some store bought almond flour, that I added in these snack balls along with the seeds to balance the crunch. Almond flour is nothing but ground blanched and peeled whole almonds. Almond meal on the other hand is ground whole (skin on) almonds. Therefore, and as you may have guessed, almond meal is slightly grittier in form than it’s flour counterpart. Availability depending, both almond meal and it’s flour version could be used in this recipe. They can very well be homemade too. Pulse some almonds till they’re ground. However, one quick precaution when we pulse oil-containing nuts like walnuts or almonds is to not grind them too much…they begin releasing these oils and turn buttery. For this reason, homemade nut-meals are more crumbly to touch, while, the store bought ones more powdery.
Then I used a combination of 5 seeds…that of pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame and flax. They added to all that amazing crunch!! Although I don’t question the benefits of flax seeds, but I am not a big fan of how they taste…so I coarse-grounded them for this recipe. In fruits, I threw in some grated apples, fresh grated coconut (also frozen grated coconuts), dried cranberries…and of course the dried figs and dates. I like using Granny Smith green apples in place of the sweet red ones. These slightly sour apples balance well with the sweetness of dates or figs. Spices were the finishing jewel to the crown…ground cinnamon, cloves and cardamoms added that extra charm to the taste. Once done, I rolled these energy bites over some fine dry desiccated coconut, so the balls don’t stick during storage.
Dates, figs and cranberries are the natural sweetners and binders…the seeds add to the crunch, whereas, almond flour, walnut meal, chia seeds and ground flax seeds work to absorb extra moisture to provide sort of form to these bite size laddus, as well as balance the rest of the ingredients in taste. Overall, I am extremely pleased with how these energy bites came out…I could taste the medley of flavors…and that each bite had a deliciously different offering. Trust me, these nutritious balls taste nowhere close to the “regular too-healthy but not delicious” off the shelf stuffs. Rather, I found them tastier than many of their sugar laden counterparts. This is a great on-the-go snack too, and keeps well in lunch boxes if packed well. Store them in a refrigerator in an air tight container and consume over a month. Make them soon, give your body that booster dose of nutrition it needs and fall in love with this snack…do not forget to let me know how you liked these healthy little lovelies!
Makes 35 to 40 medium sized bites
- 1 lb or 0.5 kg good quality dates — deseeded and chopped
- 9 oz or 250 gm of dried black mission figs — trim the hard stem tip and chop
- Half of one Granny Smith’s or Green apple — cored, peeled and grated
- 3 tbsp fresh coconut flesh, grated — or thawed frozen grated coconut (I used the later)
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 tbsp dry roasted sunflower seeds — coarsely pounded/broken
- 2 tbsp dry roasted pumpkin seeds — coarsely pounded/broken
- Handful of dried cranberries
- 6 tbsp flax seed meal**
- 6 tbsp walnut meal**
- 4 tbsp almond flour or meal**
- 0.5 tsp ground clove (powder)
- 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon (powder)
- 0.5 tsp ground cardamom (powder)
- Fine dry desiccated coconut for coating the snack balls — optional
- Light olive oil or clarified butter (ghee) to grease palms while rolling/shaping the snacks
**Notes: To make homemade nuts/seed meal, pulse-grind some almonds or walnuts or flax seeds in a food processor or in clean and dry blender, till they’re done. However, while pulsing oil-rich nuts like walnuts or almonds take care not to grind them too much…they begin releasing these oils and turn buttery. (Read main post for other details)
- In a large, clean and dry mixing bowl, add all ingredients except the dry desiccated coconut and olive oil.
- With clean dry hands, mix all the ingredients well. This step takes a little effort and patience. While mixing let the fingers use a semi-mash like movements. This will ensure that the seeds and nut meals are well incorporated and the chopped dates and figs pieces are mixed together optimally.
- The resulting mixture would be a little sticky and yet workable. (The stickiness would reduce sufficiently, once the balls have been shaped.)
- On a flat plate, spread a layer of the dry desiccated coconut and keep ready.
- Grease your palm with light olive oil or ghee and roll about 1 tablespoon of the snack mixture into smooth balls. Repeat till all the mixture has been used up. Grease your palm well in between to avoid much stick-ons.
- After all the bite-balls have been shaped, taking one at a time, roll each of them over the desiccated coconut flakes.
- Store the balls in a dry, air-tight container and refrigerate. Consume over a month.
Tip: If the snack-mixture gets too sticky, add some more almond meal or walnut meal or both. You may also add a little amount of chia seeds, since they absorb moisture, however, adding a lot of chia seeds may result in excessive crunch in the snack, if you’d like. Also, the common Indian dried figs called the “Kashmiri dry figs” are a much harder and drier variety compared to the black mission figs. I haven’t used Kashmiri figs in this recipe, but would be inclined to think that they may be difficult to chop/mix or work with, and could render hard chunks into the snacks mixture.
Have a happy healthy rest of the week!