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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Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

A Slice of The Fat Foodie's Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

A Slice of The Fat Foodie’s Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I’ve got a really sweet tooth, so it won’t come as a surprise to hear that since going dairy-free I’ve been really missing things like chocolate sweeties and cakes. However, I decided to take this problem in hand and create my own dairy-free traybake slice, resulting in this incredible date and oat chocolate traybake.

This recipe produces an incredibly easy to make caramelly traybake that’s packed full of nutrients, minerals and fibre. It has a crispy, biscuity toasted oat and date base and is topped with a thick, gooey caramel-like date puree which acts as a wonderful, healthier substitute for real (dairy) caramel. It’s topped with a generous layer of dark chocolate which has been softened slightly through the addition of a little bit of coconut oil, ensuring that the chocolate top isn’t rock hard and melts all over your fingertips as you munch (like any decent chocolate treat should!).

I’ll be honest, a food processor, blender or Nutribullet is pretty essential for this recipe because the base and filling need to be blended until smooth. However, with the aid of my food processor this literally took me all of 15 mins to make, so I think that’s worth any initial outlay concerns you might have regarding treating yourself to one.

This date and oat chocolate traybake recipe is very simple to follow. The only thing I would say is that the amount of coconut oil required for both the base and middle layer depends on the moistness of the dates you’re using, but if you’re struggling to bring it together then you can just either add a bit more melted coconut oil to your mixture or a bit of hot water. It’s no problem and won’t affect the overall taste at all.

I loved this traybake recipe and it made a very generous tray full of delicious chocolate treats. The main problem was simply trying to stop at munching only one…

Ingredients:

For the base:

350g pitted dates

200g oats

3 tbsps of coconut oil (melted)

For the filling:

350g pitted dates

50g ground almonds

4 tbsps of cashew nut butter

100g coconut oil (melted)

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsps of hot water

For the topping:

200g dark chocolate

2 tbsps coconut oil

Method:

To make the base layer:

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Spread the oats in a thin layer on a baking tray and bake in the oven until golden brown. Leave to cool.

Place the dates and toasted oats into the food processor/Nutribullet and pulse until it forms a sandy texture. Add the coconut oil and blend again until it forms a dough that sticks together. (If necessary, add a bit of hot water to help bind it together.)

Pour into a traybake tin (roughly 20cm by 30cm in size) and press it down so it forms a base. Put it in the fridge to harden.

To make the filling:

Put all of the filling ingredients into the food processor/Nutribullet and blend until it forms a very smooth paste. (If it’s not coming together add a little bit of hot water to loosen the mixture a bit.)

Spread the filling over the base layer and put it back in the fridge.

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The Filling Being Placed in The Fat Foodie’s Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

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The Filling Layer in The Fat Foodie’s Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

To make the topping:

Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a jug and once it’s liquid pour over the traybake.

Place in the fridge and once it’s set, cut into slices and serve.

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The Chocolate Topping of The Fat Foodie’s Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

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A Slice of The Fat Foodie’s Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake

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Date and Oat Chocolate Traybake 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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Vegan Pancakes

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie with Lemon and Golden Syrup

When I was a kid I loved pancake day because it was a day in which you were legitimately allowed to eat dessert for dinner. Dad was always the designated pancake maker and, apart from the first one which is always a dud anyway, they were consistently outstanding. We’d wait patiently (or impatiently) to receive each individually made pancake from the frying pan and eat them piping hot, sprinkled with Jif lemon juice and drizzled with a generous coating of Tate and Lyle’s golden syrup. Delicious!

Although nowadays my adult palate baulks at the idea of solely eating sweet pancakes for dinner on Shrove Tuesday, I do insist on following tradition and I tend to make them after a small sensible dinner as a tasty dessert. The topping choices seem endless in today’s day and age, but the first pancake on my plate is always decorated with lemon juice and golden syrup. Any other topping just seems out of place until I’ve had my citrus-laden, tart, but sweet one.

I was a bit apprehensive about trying to create a recipe for vegan pancakes because I was unsure whether an eggless, milk-free pancake mix would yield the same results as a standard pancake mix would, but I have to say, vegan pancakes taste exactly the same as ‘normal’ pancakes. I’ve never liked really thick, dense pancakes (unless they’re fluffy little Scotch pancakes) and have always preferred a thin, crispy crêpe. Thankfully, this vegan pancake recipe makes lovely light crêpes that have just the right tasty crispiness to fold around your chosen fillings.

On the subject of pancake fillings, the list of possibilities is endless: lemon juice; golden syrup; maple syrup; honey; nuts; whipped cream or coconut cream; melted chocolate; or fresh fruit. Another option is to leave the sugar out of the mix which would allow you to use the crêpes with savoury fillings, such as cream cheese (or vegan alternatives), cooked meats, grated cheddar, crispy bacon, roasted vegetables, or sundried tomatoes and pesto.

Whether you want to make pancakes to celebrate Shrove Tuesday or simply to worship the joy that is the humble pancake, give these a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Ingredients for the vegan pancakes:

200g plain flour (or gluten-free flour)

2 tbsps of sugar

400ml of hazelnut milk (or normal milk)

2 tbsps of sunflower oil (or 1 egg, if non-vegan) (plus more oil for frying)

Toppings can include: Lemon juice; Golden Syrup; Maple syrup; Jam; fresh fruit; Nutella (or vegan alt.); Nuts; Honey, etc.

Method:

Put all of your pancake ingredients (without the toppings, obviously!) in a jug and whisk together until it is smooth.

Put a non-stick pancake pan or frying pan on a medium heat with a little sunflower oil (around 1 tsp).

Once the oil is hot, slowly pour some of the pancake mix into the centre of the pancake pan, tilting the pan as you pour so the mixture spreads into a thin disc. (They don’t have to be perfect, so don’t stress if they’re weird shapes. Trust me, they’ll still taste amazing.)

Let the pancake cook on one side until it’s crispy and golden brown when you lift the edge up with a fish slice.

Flip the pancake over and cook the other side until it’s also crisp and brown.

Remove from the pancake pan and place on a baking tray. Keep the pancakes warm in the oven until you’re ready to serve them and carry on making more until all of the mix is used up.

Adorn your pancakes with your chosen toppings and serve.

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie

Freshly Made Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie Drizzled with Melted Chocolate

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie with Lemon and Golden Syrup

Vegan Pancakes by The Fat Foodie with Lemon and Golden Syrup

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