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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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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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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Fat Foodie Energy Balls (Makes 18)

Making Fat Foodie Energy Balls

Making Fat Foodie Energy Balls

Energy balls are incredibly popular at the moment, but apart from trying a Bounce protein energy ball once (which was very tasty indeed!) I’ve never actually tried making them myself. This all changed a couple of days ago after I’d been reading the latest Deliciously Ella cookbook Deliciously Ella With Friends which features a lovely sounding recipe for pistachio and orange truffles.

Now, I’m afraid you won’t find the recipe for Ella’s pistachio and orange truffles here because I didn’t have all of the ingredients to make them, but I did find myself wondering whether I could make an energy ball of my own creation with ingredients that I did have at hand, so I went ahead and had a bash. Thankfully they worked out very well!

I think the trick to good energy balls is to make sure the ratio of dry ingredients to wet is accurate. Too wet and they won’t hold their shape, too dry and they won’t form into a ball and will crumble apart. I also couldn’t have made these without my trusty food processor, although a Nutribullet or blender would probably do the same job if that’s what you’ve got in your kitchen.

When you bite into one of these energy balls the first thing that hits your taste buds is the smooth dark cocoa coating, but as you begin to chew, the sweetness of the dates and apricots merges with the bitter chocolate to create the impression of a sinfully decadent, but ultimately pretty healthy, sweetie. The nutty crunch of the crumbled seeds only adds to the overall enjoyment of the blend of flavours.

That’s quite the description, but it’s as accurate as I can make it and you could easily adapt the ingredients to suit your own tastes, such as using cinnamon in place of ginger, or using other dried fruits in place of the apricots. (You’d probably need to stick with using a base of dates though because it’s their fudginess which helps hold the energy balls together.)

This recipe makes around 18 large marble-sized energy balls and is well worth having a go at. If you do make them, let me know how you get on.

Ingredients:

300g dates (pitted)

100g dried apricots

50g pumpkin seeds

50g sunflower seeds

100g oats

2 tsps vanilla essence

4 tsps tahini

A pinch of salt

1/4 tsp. of ground ginger

1/2 an over-ripe banana

2 tbsps of melted coconut oil (possibly more depending on how the mix sticks together)

4 tbsps cocoa powder

Method:

Sprinkle your cocoa powder onto a plate and leave to one side, then lay a sheet of greaseproof paper out on your work surface.

Put all of your other ingredients into your food processor and blitz until it forms a thick paste. If you find that it’s not forming a paste add a little bit more melted coconut oil to the mixer until it does stick together.

Making Fat Foodie Energy Balls

Making Fat Foodie Energy Balls

Put the mixture in a bowl (so you’re not delving your hand into a food processor bowl and running the risk of having a finger meet a blade!).

Take a small portion (about the size of a large marble) and form it into a ball before rolling it around in the cocoa and placing it on the greaseproof paper.

Coating Fat Foodie Energy Balls

Coating Fat Foodie Energy Balls

When you’ve made all of your energy balls put them in the fridge to firm up. Once firm, enjoy!

Fat Foodie Energy Balls

Fat Foodie Energy Balls

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Rice Pudding (serves 6-8)

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Rice Pudding by The Fat Foodie

I’m going to Mum and Dad’s for dinner tonight because my aunt and uncle are visiting, so I thought that to contribute to the meal I’d take along dessert. A couple of days ago I had came across a recipe for a Banana, Coconut and Ginger cake which looked really enticing so this morning I made it. At lunchtime, after persuading myself that it would be remiss of me to bring the cake along to dinner without pre-tasting it for quality control purposes, I was terribly disappointed to discover that although it was properly baked all the way through, it had a horrible, thick, stodgy texture and the only truly edible part of it was the top and crust. Thank God I’m greedy and tried it beforehand.

I’ve been persistently let down by American cakes recently, today’s has only been the latest in about three bakes that have fell well below par, and this I attribute to the use of oil instead of butter as the main fat in the cakes. Oil in any form can’t be whipped in the same way that butter can so it can’t be filled with tiny little air bubbles which help the cake to form a light, airy crumb. For now I’ll be sticking to the good old reliable British victoria sponge quaternity of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Oh, and it’ll be self-raising flour too, not this ‘all-purpose flour’ and then adding baking powder to create the rise malarkey.

If I sound irate it’s because I am. The crap recipe led to the waste of a lot of ingredients which included 5 eggs, expensive coconut oil and 2 tbsps of damn good whiskey. Okay, it wasn’t a single malt just a cheapish blend, but still, whiskey’s whiskey, am I right?!!! I’m still going to take some of the cake down for Dad because he loves coconut, but sadly its delivery is going to be prefixed with me having to warn him to only eat the tasty top and the side crusty bits. No cake should ever have to come with a warning like that, should it?

And of course this still left me with the dilemma of what to bring for dessert. I know I could have picked up something from the shop, but it’s hardly heartwarming, is it? After abandoning plans for a number of substitute cakes, due to the fact that I’d ran out of eggs and didn’t have much butter left, I was looking for inspiration in the cupboards when my eye fell on a packet of pudding rice flakes. These are little grains of pudding rice (a particular type of rice that’s well suited to making desserts with) that are flattened (they look a bit like oats) and are quicker and easier to cook than grains of solid rice. I had loads of milk in the fridge so I decided that rice pudding was the way to go.

I had a taste of this rice pudding after I’d cooked it in the saucepan and was about to transfer it into my casserole tray to bake it in the oven and, let me tell you, this rice pudding is to die for. Each spoonful delivers soft little nutmeg-scented flakes of pudding rice encapsulated within a creamy, sweet, buttery milk sauce, only enhanced with a delicate little drizzle of double cream. For such a simple recipe it’s one of the most delicious desserts I’ve probably ever made, but it’s one that I’ll definitely return to.

Ingredients:

250g Flaked Pudding Rice

60g Butter

80g Sugar

1600ml Milk

50g Sultanas

1 Nutmeg clove

Method:

Put the rice, milk, sugar, sultanas and half the butter into a large saucepan and grate two-thirds of your nutmeg clove into the pan.

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas Mark 4.

Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring frequently, and cook until the rice is soft and the sauce is thick. Pour into a casserole tray or a pie tin.

Dot the last of your butter all over the top of the rice pudding and grate more of the nutmeg over the top too.

Bake for around half an hour or until the top of the rice pudding is golden brown.

Rice Pudding by The Fat Foodie

Rice Pudding by The Fat Foodie

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A sexy, but ultimately very disappointing, Banana, Coconut and Ginger Cake. I’d describe it as a’ fur coat and nae knickers.

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