Feel the No-Bake Power!

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When it comes to natural sources of protein and energy, the health-conscious are turning to homemade bars, balls, and bites. From what I’ve seen, creators are calling on dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and grains to put them together. My power ball formula also includes a classic crowd pleaser, chocolate!

I am not a fan of or advocate for protein powders or shakes. They are expensive, overly processed, and while some taste decent, many have a chalky aftertaste. I follow a blogger that is a dietician by day and athlete by night. She follows a mostly raw vegan diet, is totally opposed to powders and shakes, and is able to gain plenty of lean muscle mass (if that’s what you’re going for) using plant-based sources of protein and energy.

Her posts and my commitment to a minimally-processed, DIY plant-based lifestyle inspired me to create a power ball that my whole family will eat. Because they are dense, rich in flavor and consistency, and somewhat expensive to make, I only eat one or two a day when I have them in my fridge.

The base of any solid bar, ball, or bite is whole grains (often oats) and something sticky and gooey to hold the whole thing together. Creating the dough is quick and easy; rolling it into easy-to-grab-and-eat balls is a little more time-consuming, but yields you the perfect portion.

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Pop a power ball as a snack, eat one or two with fresh fruit for breakfast, or treat yourself to a super healthy mock dessert. You could even serve them at a party because they are just so darn cute…power lollipop anyone?! 🙂 In general, these remind me of truffles, without the animal fat, cholesterol, and excessive sugar. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: POWER BALLS

Makes 12-14 small balls

For the dough:

  • 1 cup nut or seed butter (nuts/seeds only) –>  I’m using peanut.
  • 1 cup uncooked whole grains –>  I’m using rolled oats.
  • ½ cup unsweetened dried fruit (without added oil) –>  I’m using 6 small pitted medjool dates.
  • 2 tbsps natural liquid sweetener –>  I’m using pure maple syrup.
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Garnish ideas (approximately 4 tbsps):

  • Raw seeds*
  • Raw finely chopped nuts
  • Unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Finely chopped unsweetened dried fruit bits (without added oil)
  • Melted dark chocolate (which will re-solidify after dipping)

*Today, I’m using a combo of sunflower, chia, and hulled hemp.

Turn your whole grains into flour using your food processor or blender. You could also use rolled oats as is. The texture of the balls will be different, but rolled oats are one of few grains soft enough to be palatable without becoming flour.

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Combine the flour and your remaining ingredients in a food processor. Run until a thick, pliable dough forms. You will probably have to scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula at least once.

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Shape the dough into 1-1 ½ inch balls and roll in garnish.

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Enjoy immediately or store in the fridge.

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Make Smart Substitutions

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I am excited to share with you that I completed my first Fresh Formula publication outside of my blog.  🙂  I completed an article for the Adjunct Faculty Association spring newsletter, The Connection, and was among only five adjuncts selected to write in the health and wellness section.  Today, I thought I’d share that article with you.

If you’re a regular subscriber of The Fresh Formula, some of the article’s content won’t be new information, but a refresher never hurts.  I also included the recipe for my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie, which was one of my first blog posts.  Click the link above to see the original article or read the text below:

On my plant-based living blog, The Fresh Formula, I share information and recipes for healthy eating.  One of the easiest changes we can make to our diets is to consider healthier substitutes for the items that we are using regularly.  Below, I have listed some examples of substitutions that I have made in my own kitchen:

  • White flour –> Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, graham flour
  • White granulated sugar –> Turbinado sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, medjool dates
  • Iodized table salt –> Pink Himalayan sea salt

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  • Nut butters with additives –> Nuts-only nut butters
  • Eggs –> Chia seeds or ground flaxseed (mixed with water), bananas, steamed apple puree
  • Dairy milk –> Unsweetened almond, cashew, coconut, grain, and hemp milks
  • Canned beans –> Dry beans or unsalted canned beans (beans only)
  • White rice –> Brown rice, farro, quinoa, wheat berries, cracked wheat, barley
  • Prepackaged popcorn –> Bulk popping corn (made on the stovetop)

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  • Vegetable or canola oil –> Coconut, avocado, sesame, peanut, and olive oils
  • Boxed/canned stock/broth –> Unsalted homemade stock (can also be used as a flavorful substitute for water when cooking whole grains)

While many of these substitutions are more expensive, some are cheaper than their preservative-laden brethren; I believe that the health benefits are worth it either way.  I adopted a plant-based lifestyle because I had high cholesterol, so eggs, for example, were one of the first items to cross off of my shopping list.  Chia seeds, by contrast, are cholesterol-free sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium.

I have included my irresistible chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie recipe incorporating many of the aforementioned substitutions.  It is so decadent, it can serve as dessert, but is a healthy option for a meal or snack, too!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and a few ice cubes)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (nuts only)
  • 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 pitted medjool dates
  • Unsweetened almond milk to achieve desired consistency (start with ½ cup)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until silky smooth.

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For more valuable health tips, information on plant-based living and eating, and tons of delicious recipes, visit thefreshformula.com and subscribe for regular updates.  Cheers to good health!

New Formula: Super Creamy Dressing, Hold the Cream!

DSC_1647A few nights ago, my sister sent me a recipe for spiced chickpeas that she said I just had to try, and she was right. If you’ve never heard of Thug Kitchen, you NEED to check out these uber-talented and funny vegan chefs! What the thugs figured out that I couldn’t put my finger on until I completed their recipe (sorry guys, it’s not on their website, but it is in their cookbook, which I am now ordering ASAP) is that seed and nut butters make for the ultimate rich and creamy dressing for salads, wraps, sandwiches, and fruit and veggie dipping.

Really, this has made sense for longer than I realized. I love to eat tahini (made from sesame seeds) on sandwiches and peanut butter on apple slices. So, I’ve been using seed and nut butters in a dressing and dip capacity for quite a while, and you probably have, too. When it comes to more delicate applications like salads, however, a thick peanut butter alone just won’t cut it in the dressing department.

Prior to becoming an honorary thug, I attempted to make creamy salad dressing in a number of ways, from thickening plant milk with chia seeds to puréeing silken tofu. While these methods have afforded me some success, the resulting dressings were no match for the tahini-based dressing in the thugs’ spiced chickpea recipe. As I do with just about any recipe I come across, I played around and made the dressing my own and thus, a new Basic Formula was born.

Yikes, seed and nut butters are fattening! Yes, but remember, fat is ok in moderation…and if it doesn’t come from animals. If you are going to opt for ranch dressing, for instance, think of it this way: You are also opting for cholesterol and potentially, hormones from the animal products. Seeds and nuts are cholesterol-free fats that do not contain hormones and do contain tons of protein and other nutrients. Also, when I shared my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie recipe with you, I explained that seeds are nuts are one of the only sources of fat in my diet, so a little here and there is not going to hurt me (or you).

Don’t forget to purchase, whenever possible, seed and nut butters than contain ONLY seeds and nuts. Many jarred butters contain unnecessary added salts, oils, and sugars. If I deem them necessary, I would rather add these ingredients to a homemade dressing so that I can control the quality and quantity.

Finally, I consider mustard an acid, even though it is technically derived from seeds and processed with acid (vinegar). The acidic, sometimes bitter taste reminds me of the sensation of consuming a purer acid like citrus juice or straight vinegar. If you include mustard in your dressing, seek out a stone ground or whole grain variety. Mustard seeds are an excellent source of selenium (just like brown rice…see my whole grain salad recipe) and Omega-3 fatty acids.

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Below is my new formula and an application inspired by the tahini dressing that gave way to my latest culinary brainchild. Satisfy your craving for a rich, creamy dressing or dip by turning to seeds and nuts rather than cows and goats. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: Creamy Dressing

Dresses 3-4 salads

  • ¼ cup seed or nut butter –> I’m using tahini.
  • 2 ½ tbsp acid (citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, or a combination) –> I’m using 1 tbsp stone ground mustard and 1 ½ tbsp lemon juice.
  • Thinning liquid as needed, depending on whether you’re going for a dressing or thick dip (ideas: veggie stock, water, or more acid) –> I’m using 3 tbsp water.
  • Up to 2 tbsp raw garlic and/or fresh/dried herbs and/or spices (optional) –> I’m using one small clove minced raw garlic and I tsp finely chopped fresh sweet mint.
  • ½-1 tsp sweetener (optional) –> I’m using ½ tsp 100% pure maple syrup.
  • Salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.

Combine all ingredients with a small whisk. Add thinning liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency. Still not creamy enough for you? Run the whole mixture through a food processor or blender (I enjoy the texture of the mustard seeds, so I am leaving my dressing as is after whisking). Drizzle over salad, spread on bread, pita, or wrap, or use for dipping. You are seriously going to LOVE this dressing! Ranch…what’s that?!

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