Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls

Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls by The Fat Foodie

Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls by The Fat Foodie

My doula friend Jen, over at  Your Birth Scotland, asked me to create a few recipes for pregnant women and postpartum mums that would be easy for them to make, but would be nice and healthy to help nourish their bodies too.

These apricot and sunflower seed energy balls are excellent little snacks that are filled with energy and nutrients for new and expectant mums. They’re incredibly easy to make because all you have to do is just throw all of your ingredients into a food processor (a handy tool to have in the kitchen because you can puree food for your baby with it) and then roll them into balls before coating them.

This is the second batch of energy balls I’ve made. The first ones, Chocolate Date Energy Balls, were lovely but I realised that I’d made them a little too big, so I thought I’d make these ones a bit smaller. They’re certainly more comfortable to eat because they’re bite-sized.

I asked a few of my friends who’ve had babies what kind of snacks they found useful during their pregnancies and postpartum and they all said that they needed quick, convenient things that they could grab to eat while juggling a baby, but that were fairly healthy and would give them plenty of energy. Thankfully, I think these fit that remit quite well.

These apricot and sunflower seed energy balls are delicious while being stuffed full of good things, such as fibre, and they have heaps of iron in them (something pregnant women and those who have recently given birth are often low in). In fact, in order to absorb the most amount of iron from food it’s best to consume it along with some vitamin C because it helps the body to take the iron in (i.e having a glass of fresh orange juice along with your steak and chips or hummus salad sandwich).

However, these energy balls do this already because you’ve got the vitamin C in the dried dates and apricots supplementing the iron that’s naturally found in the oats, tahini and within the dates and apricots themselves. Also, the dried dates and apricots contain important vitamins and minerals including potassium, zinc, calcium, magnesium, folate and vitamin A. It’s like these energy ball ingredients want to make you healthier! And as doula, Jen, at Your Birth Scotland attests, it makes sense to supplement your diet with as many naturally occurring vitamins and minerals as possible to ensure a healthy pregnancy and to take care of your adjusting maternal body postpartum.

I made these with the intention of them being a snack to nibble on throughout the week, but my partner seemed to find them irresistible as a breakfast food, grabbing two or three before leaving the house on a morning, or stuffing a couple into their packed lunch bag, or munching one or two while doing the dishes as a little after dinner natural sugar hit.

Regardless of how or when you want to eat them, you can be guaranteed that these energy balls will put more than a little spring in your step.

Ingredients:

150g dates

1 ripe banana

A pinch of salt

50g dried apricots

50g oats

50g sunflower seeds

4 tbsps. cocoa powder

50g coconut oil (melted)

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp hot water

60g desiccated coconut (reserve a little for coating the energy balls)

30g sesame seeds (for coating the energy balls)

Method:

Lay a bowl, two plates and a piece of greaseproof paper out on your work surface.

Put all of your ingredients into a food processor and blend together until it starts forming a ball. Empty out into the bowl.

Fat Foodie Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Ball Mix

Fat Foodie Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Ball Mix

Pour the sesame seeds onto one plate and the leftover coconut onto another plate so that you’ve got a production line in place.

Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls Production Line

Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls Production Line

Take a small piece of energy ball mixture and roll it in your palms until it forms a small ball and then roll it in either the sesame or the coconut coating and set on the greaseproof paper.

Coconut Coated Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls by The Fat Foodie

Coconut Coated Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls by The Fat Foodie

Continue until all of the mixture is used up and then put the energy balls in the fridge to harden. Enjoy!

Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls by The Fat Foodie

Apricot and Sunflower Seed Energy Balls by The Fat Foodie

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Lentil Ragù

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie

In Italy, Sicilians make a pasta sauce that’s much like a bolognese, but instead of making it with minced meat they make it with lentils. This creates a deliciously thick and ‘meaty’ lentil ragù that’s incredible over pasta.

When Jen from Your Birth Scotland tasked me with developing some recipes for her pregnant and postpartum clients the first thing I thought of was a dish that would be primarily based on lentils because they’re one of the most incredibly nutritious and healthy pulses available. They’re also unbelievably cheap to buy and can be used in a myriad of dishes.

There are four main types of lentil which are used in cooking. Green and brown lentils hold their shape after cooking, so are suitable for using in stuffings, casseroles and warm salads. Yellow lentils break down into a pulp and tend to be used for making recipes like pease pudding or split pea soup. Puy lentils are beautiful greeny-slate coloured lentils that are grown in the Le Puy region in France and are prized for their high quality taste and their ability to retain their texture after cooking. These lentils tend to be used alongside fish and meat, such as in sausage casseroles. And lastly, we have the humble common red lentil, the most versatile lentil of all, which breaks down upon cooking to create a rich, thick puree that can be used to add texture to any dish while soaking up the flavours you wish to impart.

Aside from being highly fibrous and high in protein and carbohydrates, lentils are packed full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, calcium, phosphorous and essential B vitamins. All of these support good overall health for everyone, but are particularly useful for women who are either pregnant or postpartum because they help to maintain healthy iron levels and prevent anemia while also supporting good metabolism operation to ensure your energy levels remain stable. As you can see, lentils are a win-win really!

One of the benefits to this lentil ragù (aside from the fact that it’s delicious!) is that it’s made in the slow cooker, allowing you to focus on other things throughout your day. It simply is a case of throwing all of your ingredients into the slow cooker pot, setting it on low, and getting on with your day.

This lentil ragù is fat free, iron rich and is packed full of lots of vegetables, making it a very healthy dish indeed. If you have a partner who insists on having meat every day then you could throw some diced casserole beef in alongside the lentils and it would taste just as good. I think the lentils are quite substantial enough as they are without having to add meat to the recipe, but each to their own, I say. You could also add mushrooms to it if you fancy or if you’d like to give it a smokey kick a half teaspoon of smoked paprika would do the trick. Also, if you make this and enjoy it you could try making The Happy Pear’s Dahl recipe in your slow cooker, which is also packed full of healthy, nutritious little lentils and is lovely served with rice and naans or poppadums.

Serve your lentil ragù on a bed of tender tagliatelle and scatter with fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan (or a vegan alternative).

Ingredients:

1 large onion (diced)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

3 large carrots (cut into small pieces)

500g red lentils

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tsps. of dried oregano

4 Oxo vegetable stock cubes

1 litre of boiling water (possibly more)

20 pitted black olives (halved)

10 sundried tomatoes (chopped)

500g tagliatelle

Fresh basil

Parmesan (or a vegan alternative)

Method:

Dissolve your Oxo cubes in a jug containing 1 litre of boiling water.

Prepare the ingredients as directed and put them all in your slow cooker.

Pour the stock over the ingredients, adding more hot water if necessary so that all of the ingredients are just covered by the liquid. (This depends on the size of your slow cooker, so if you’ve got a large slow cooker you might need to add more stock.)

Let it cook for the day (if you’re in the house you could give it a stir once an hour, but it’s fine to just leave it if you’re going out).

About half an hour before you’re ready to eat, check the seasoning. If it needs it, then add salt and pepper or another Oxo cube or two. It’s very much down to personal taste.

Cook your tagliatelle as directed on the pack, drain, portion onto plates and top with the lentil ragù, basil and parmesan. Enjoy!

The Simple Ingredients Required to Make The Fat Foodie's Lentil Ragù

The Simple Ingredients Required to Make The Fat Foodie’s Lentil Ragù

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie About to be Slow Cooked

Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie About to be Slow Cooked

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Lentil Ragù by The Fat Foodie

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Sweet Potato Brownies (makes 8)

Sweet Potato Brownies by The Fat Foodie

Sweet Potato Brownies by The Fat Foodie

My friend Jen, is a doula (who is, in her words, a person who “provides physical, emotional and informational support to families helping them to reduce fear, pain and uncertainty during their birth experience“). Jen runs her own doula business, Your Birth Scotland, and she recently asked me if I’d develop a few recipes that were quick to cook and healthy for women who are either pregnant or have recently given birth and I accepted her challenge.

These sweet potato brownies were created because I was looking to create a recipe for a snack that would contain a decent amount of nutrients and fibre for mums who had recently given birth. Now I’m not going to lie, they didn’t turn out quite as healthy as I’d envisioned because they have quite a bit of sugar in them. However, on the plus side, they ended up being literally the best brownies I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

Sweet potatoes are a really healthy vegetable and, unlike normal white potatoes, they count towards our five-a-day quota because they have lower starch levels than other carbohydrates. They also contain four main micronutrients: vitamin C, which keeps our immune system healthy and aids iron absorption within the body (very important for both pregnant women and women who have recently given birth); thiamin, an essential B-vitamin which supports the nervous system and ensures good heart health; potassium, which normalises blood pressure and along with thiamin takes care of the nervous system; and manganese, which ensures healthy bones and general cell health. I think it’s fairly clear that they’re nutritional powerhouses within the vegetable world!

These sweet potato brownies also contain other ingredients which are high in nutritional density, such as walnuts which are an excellent source of antioxidants as well as omega-3 fat, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid that the body and mind needs to function properly. The brownies also contain chia seeds, a high protein seed which along with providing the body with fibre, also contains omega-3s and a whole host of micronutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, all of which support overall health. The brownies have also got coconut oil in them, a source of healthy fat which helps to remove bad fat from the blood and lower cholesterol and therefore, promotes heart health and lowers the risk of heart disease.

Lastly, the brownies have a healthy whack of antioxidant-rich cocoa and dark chocolate in them, which contain minerals like potassium, iron, zinc and selenium, and has been found in a Finnish study to lower stress in pregnant women while also producing babies who smiled more in comparison with babies born to non-chocolate eating mothers. Dark chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a chemical which encourages the release of feel-good endorphins.

After I baked the brownies and let them cool slightly I started to take my photographs and once that was done I figured it was time to have a taste. And wow! Without overly blowing my own trumpet (but I will because they were outstanding) I was blown away by how good they were. I’m not a fan of most brownies because I hate that undercooked texture of the cake mix that so many of them have, but these didn’t have that. They retained the fudgy element of a brownie that you’d expect, but weren’t thick and claggy. Quite surprising considering they contain sweet potato!

Another bonus to these sweet potato brownies is that they are vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free and you cannot tell at all. The cake base is light, but fudgy, and is speckled with little chunks of walnut and their overall chocolate quota is further enhanced by the addition of dark chocolate chips lying atop the brownies. Sigh… They’re just out of this world!

I’d recently treated myself to a little pack of mini loaf baking boxes and they were perfect for baking the brownies in because they helped them to retain their shape and worked perfectly as individual bakes (as opposed to having to cut them out of a tray). This also meant that they were ideal for slotting into my packed lunch box to take to work.

This sweet potato brownie recipe has most definitely become my new go-to brownie recipe and although they may not be the healthiest pregnancy or postpartum snack, doesn’t every new Mum deserve a little treat once in a while for all her hard work? I certainly know that Jen the doula would think so.

Ingredients:

420g peeled raw sweet potato cut into small cubes (or around 250g cooked weight)

140g sugar

100g self-raising flour (or gluten-free self-raising flour)

50g cocoa powder

100g walnuts (keep 16 walnut halves aside to decorate the brownies)

100g dark chocolate chips

2 chia eggs made from 2 tbsps. of chia seeds mixed with 6 tbsps. of cold water and left for half an hour before using (or 2 eggs, if non-vegan)

1 tsp. baking powder

100g melted coconut oil (or butter)

1 tsp vanilla extract

7 tbsps. of alt-milk (or standard milk, if non-vegan)

Method:

Make the chia seed eggs, if using.

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F/Gas mark 5.

Lay out your mini loaf baking boxes on a baking tray.

Peel your sweet potato and cut into small cubes (about 2cm square). Place in a bowl and cook on high in the microwave (stirring a couple of times) until the sweet potato is soft.

Keeping the decorative walnut halves and dark chocolate chips aside, put all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.

Once the mixture is fully combined, spoon into the mini loaf baking boxes (making sure there’s an equal amount in each) and then top with the walnut halves and sprinkle with dark chocolate chips.

Bake in the oven for 30 mins (or a little less if you prefer your brownies to be gooier).

Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before eating.

Sweet Potato Brownies by The Fat Foodie

Sweet Potato Brownies by The Fat Foodie

Sweet Potato Brownies by The Fat Foodie

Sweet Potato Brownies by The Fat Foodie

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Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart by The Fat Foodie

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart by The Fat Foodie

The other night I needed something quick to whip up for dinner, but I wanted to make something that was going to be more exciting than a freezer pizza. After a rummage around the fridge I saw that I had a packet of puff pastry along with some good ripe tomatoes that had to be used up, so I figured a roasted garlic and tomato tart would do nicely.

Apart from having to roast the garlic for half an hour this is a pretty speedy and easy to create dinner, but most importantly, it also tastes out of this world.

I’ve kept my tart fairly simple by going for the roasted garlic and tomato topping, but you could easily make the tart with a topping of thinly sliced courgettes with green olives, pesto and spinach, bacon and cheddar cheese, or roasted peppers with mozzarella. Your options are extensive to say the least.

I served my roasted garlic and tomato tart with a drizzle of sweet balsamic glaze which massively complemented the roasted garlic and tomatoes. It went beautifully with a fresh, green salad that was tossed in a light French salad dressing. This tart is a perfect example of how it’s the simplest things in the culinary world that often bring the most amount of pleasure.

Ingredients:

1 whole garlic bulb

1 tbsp of sunflower oil

500g block of puff pastry

6 ripe tomatoes (each cut into eight wedges)

20 pitted black olives (cut in half lengthways)

1 small onion (thinly sliced)

1 tbsp American mustard

50g Violife Pizza Mozzarella

Fresh basil

Freshly ground black pepper

Balsamic glaze

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Cut the tip off the garlic bulb, drizzle with 1 tbsp of sunflower oil, wrap in tin foil and roast in the oven for half an hour. Remove from the oven and let it cool.

In the meantime, line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.

Roll out the block of puff pastry so that it just fits your baking tray.

Using a knife, lightly cut a line around the outside of the pastry (about 1 cm away from the edge), but try not to cut all the way through the pastry. Prick the interior all over with a fork.

Rolled Out Puff Pastry in Preparation For the Filling

Rolled Out Puff Pastry in Preparation For the Filling

Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic pulp out of the cloves and put it in a bowl.

Add 1 tbsp of American mustard to the garlic puree and mix.

Roasted Garlic Puree

Roasted Garlic Puree

Spread the garlic and mustard puree all over the inside of the puff pastry (avoiding the outer edge) before placing the sliced onions, tomato wedges and black olives on top.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper and the grated vegan mozzarella.

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Raw Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart Ready to be Baked

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and your toppings are cooked through.

Freshly Baked Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart

Freshly Baked Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart by The Fat Foodie

Serve either as it is or with a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Bellissimo!

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart by The Fat Foodie

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Tart by The Fat Foodie

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Thug Kitchen’s Peanut Butter and Banana Nut Muffins (Makes 12)

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Thug Kitchen’s Peanut Butter and Banana Nut Muffins made by The Fat Foodie

A while ago, one lazy Sunday morning I fancied something sweet for breakfast and had recently bought Thug Kitchen’s first cookbook so I made their peanut butter and banana nut muffins. In general I’m not a massive fan of the American ‘cup method’ of baking, but in this instance it works brilliantly, allowing you to pretty much chuck all of your ingredients into your mixing bowl and just whisk it all together. It’s certainly a very quick and easy way to produce a delicious bake!

They also don’t take very long to cook at all, so if you make a snap decision one morning to have them for breakfast (or a snack) you’ll only need to wait half an hour or so until you can get stuck into them. I expected the peanut butter and banana nut muffins to be very sweet, but they weren’t overly so and in actual fact they paired really well with a little bit of vegan butter and jam on the side. I’ll bet they’d be divine with some vegan caramel spread on top of them too.

I think you could really take some liberties with the ingredients of these muffins, if you wanted to. For instance, you could substitute the peanut butter for any other nut butter you had in your kitchen. Likewise, I think the walnuts could be swapped with pecans to great effect. And I dare say that the addition of half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the mix would be welcomed.

These muffins do have quite a dense texture, probably due to the inclusion of the heavy peanut butter and banana, which results in an almost ‘bready’ crumb, but they’re really tasty and made for a wonderfully easy and luxurious Sunday morning breakfast in bed. Needless to say, they’re firmly on my go-to breakfast muffin list now.

Ingredients:

2 cups of self-raising flour

1 tbsp. of baking powder

1/2 tsp. of salt

1/2 a cup of peanut butter

1/2 a cup of brown sugar

3/4 cup of non-dairy milk (or normal milk if you’re not a vegan)

1 & 1/2 cups of mashed ripe banana

1 tsp. of vanilla extract

1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts

Method:

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F/Gas mark 5 and lay out at least 12 large muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Put all of your wet ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk together.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases ensuring a roughly equal amount in each of them.

Bake for 18 to 22 mins or until a skewer poked into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Leave to cool slightly and then enjoy either plain or with butter/vegan butter, and jam or vegan caramel.

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Thug Kitchen’s Peanut Butter and Banana Nut Muffins made by The Fat Foodie

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Thug Kitchen’s Peanut Butter and Banana Nut Muffins made by The Fat Foodie

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