…so as I continue on my journey to get healthy, I find that I’m craving foods that are more clean, healthy, and natural. For example: after going for a swim today at the YMCA, I got home and all I wanted was some nonfat Greek honey yogurt with blueberries, strawberries, and blueberries in it. WHAT? I laughed and told my friend BreAnna how a year ago I never would’ve eaten that. So I love that my body craves it.
BreAnna moved in to one of our spare rooms to be closer to her college classes, and she does pretty well on eating healthy (she calls it 90% paleo or something). We were both pinning different “healthy” recipes on Pinterest at the same time, and she had the idea of making some of them, especially protein/energy balls, for on the go, quick snacks. We agreed on 2 recipes for protein balls, and then I wanted to add in a healthy bar (for a dessert to have). They all had to be gluten free (for me, so I wouldn’t get the nasty stomachache, and she wanted them to be paleo, since she follows the eating plan pretty closely).
The winners (!!!)
I had most of the ingredients already (because last year at one point I started to make some paleo recipes, only to find that I can bake paleo, but cooking and eating it all day is difficult for me). We ran to Huckleberries, one of the local natural health markets, and picked up the missing pieces (coconut butter, gluten free oats, etc.)
I’ll write about each “treat,” one at a time, with pictures and comments (because, isn’t that what blogs are for?!)
1. Dark Chocolate Coconut Protein Balls:
**I doubled the recipe, because it only makes ~9 balls
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 4 Tbsp. almond butter
- 3 Tbsp. protein powder (I used vanilla Isagenix IsaPro)
- 3 Tbsp. dark cocoa powder (or cacao powder to keep it raw) (I used Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa, since I had it on hand)
- 1/8 tsp. sea salt
- 1 Tbsp. agave nectar (or honey to be vegan)
- 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (melted, but not hot)
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (all we could find was sweetened)
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Additional 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut for rolling (since I don’t like the texture of coconut very much, I decided not to do this last step)
- Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl (but you could also use a food processor).
- Roll into balls (whatever size you’d like), and place in the refrigerator to set (we used a cookie sheet with wax paper)
- Store in the fridge, and they should last for about a week.
They’re chocolatey, for sure. The chia seeds add a little bit of crunch to each bite, and the coconut adds some texture as well. Buuuuut, I’m a texture weirdo, and it’s a little distracting to me. Don’t get me wrong, they’re full of flavor, and one ball actually makes me feel like I ate something. I would definitely recommend these balls, and I’ll probably make them again, but maybe I’ll grind the coconut up a little more.
2. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Balls:
Again, this was found on Pinterest (actually BreAnna pinned both the protein balls), and the recipe comes from PaleOMG. I absolutely LOVE chocolate chip cookie dough ANYTHIIIIIING, so I was quite excited about this one. These are raw, gluten free, and vegan.
- ½ cup Formulx Vanilla Protein Powder (all I had was IsaPro vanilla powder, but you can use whatever!)
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons coconut butter melted (this ingredient took awhile to find, but it was on sale at Huckleberries, called Coconut Manna. Also called Coconut Cream Concentrate. I guess you can make this with coconut flakes in a food processor)
- 1 heaping tablespoons almond butter
- 2 tablespoons almond milk (or coconut milk or water) (I used unsweetened almond milk)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt (I used sea salt)
- 2-3 tablespoons Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips (here’s where I strayed from the recipe — couldn’t find this exact brand, plus all the organic chocolate chips were twice the price of the Nestle brand. So the ones I made aren’t vegan, but still delicioussss)
- Whisk together the protein powder, coconut flour, and coconut sugar in a medium-sized bowl.
- Then add the coconut butter (or pulverized coconut flakes), almond butter, almond milk (or whatever you chose), vanilla extract, and that pinch of salt. The original recipe says to fold in the chocolate chips, but we just threw them in there.
- Mix by hand (or with a food processor), and then roll into balls (it makes ~9, or ~18 if you doubled it like us)
- Put on a cookie sheet (on wax paper if you’d like), and set in the refrigerator to set (if you happen to make 2 different types of balls like we did, you can just add them to the pan)
I. LOVE. THEM. There’s a lot of coconut ingredients in them, but they’re not overpowered with coconut flavor. They are filling, and a perfect before or after workout snack, and they satisfy that sweet-tooth for cookie dough that I often have. Texture is perfect. We both agreed they were the best of the three.
3. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars
This was my Pinterest find that we added on at the end, because they looked so darn good and I wanted at least one thing we made to be baked (because who can resist a warm, chocolately dessert?!). I was a little worried about the pumpkin part, because I don’t like pumpkin pie… but I thought I’d give it a shot.
Side note – my baby sister Megan (she’s not a baby, she actually turns 21 this week — but she’s the youngest of us 5 sisters), is an amaaaazing baker. She makes wedding cakes and cupcakes like a freakin’ pro, but she also makes really yummy treats. Her newest thing is baking seasonal treats (like pumpkin scones, or Starbucks cranberry blondie brownies), and then boxing them up with a note or quote, and delivering them to family and friends. It’s so thoughtful, and so cute, and her pumpkin scones made me a believer of pumpkin desserts. Anyway…..
The recipe comes from Ambitious Kitchen. The close-up pictures she posted made my mouth water. They’re vegan and gluten free!
- 3 cups gluten free oats
- 2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
- 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch of ground cloves
- 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar, and it wasn’t organic, but it’s out there people! Another option might be using coconut sugar, for a lower glycemic index)
- 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil (I used coconut oil – which you can use for so many things!)
- 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top (again, I got the cheaper Nestle brand, leftover from the last recipe, and they were mini, which worked well)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a square pan, either 8×8 or 9×9.
- Make flour out of your oats: because this is a flour-less recipe, you’ll need some sort of flour. What you’ll do is take the gluten-free oats, and put them in a food processor. I have a Ninja chopper, and it worked perfectly. Mine is small, so I did this in three different portions. Mix until the consistency is like flour. You’ll end up with a different amount than 3 cups, but you’ll only use 2 1/2 cups of it.
- Put the oat flour in a medium sized bowl. Add in the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk together.
- In another medium-sized bowl, add pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, coconut oil, and applesauce. Mix until all ingredients are combined. You could probably use a blender/mixer for this step. I used a whisk and my forearms got pretty tired!
- Slowly add in the oat flour mixture until it’s well mixed. I will probably use my kitchen mixer when I make these again.
- Fold in the chocolate chips! I did this step by hand because it just seemed the easiest way to do it.
- Funny sidenote – I forgot to add in the applesauce until I had put the batter into the pan. Actually, I can’t call it batter, because it was really firm and I was wondering how they were going to turn out… It was easy to mix in the applesauce by hand, and then I could actually pour it in the pan.
- Back to the recipe… pour the batter into the pan, and sprinkle the leftover chocolate chips to the top.
- Bake for somewhere between 15-30 minutes. I used an 8×8 pan, and it needed almost 30 minutes to be done. Use your judgment for this step, and obviously use less time if you use a bigger pan. The original post recommended that no matter what, you should check at 15 minutes.
- Let it cool for at least 10 minutes, and then cut into 16 slices (if you want each bar to be 128 calories!)
- You can store in fridge, and you can also freeze them. They’re good reheated in the microwave for 20-30 seconds.
Delicious. Not too much pumpkin flavor at all. You could probably add more spices to it if you wanted, but I was happy the way they turned out. A perfect breakfast treat with some coffee, or an after dinner dessert (especially if it’s warmed up). It’s a hit with everyone who’s tasted them (family and friends we’ve shared them with). My husband is a happy man because of these goodies. Plus, I don’t think they only need to be eaten in the fall, because they’re dang good.
Phew! Blogging about it took longer than making them :). But I posted a collage on Instagram and promised I’d blog about them (including this beauty of a pic below, of us in action of bake-a-palooza)
Any questions or comments? Please let me know! And feel free to share these recipes, as long as you link back to me, so the original authors get credit.
Happy [& healthy] baking!!