Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Protein Balls (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free)

With daylight savings time in the mix these days, I've been able to go running in the mornings again. I realize this might sound like crazy talk, but I am a morning person to the extreme. It's my time of the day. It's when I'm most productive, positive and energetic and generally just feel like super-woman.

Fast forward to noon and then this is me. At least my days are very balanced, right?

The one downfall about going running in the morning is that I'm a breakfast girl. However, I'm pretty certain it's common enough knowledge that one is not supposed to eat a large amount of food (which is what I would prefer) before partaking in physical activity. So I eat these balls:

These guys are packed with protein and nutrients the body needs, but they don't weigh me down when I'm out running amok. One keeps my appetite at bay for about 5 miles, and then I need to stop and have a real meal before a mental hangry breakdown erupts.

You're probably wondering what the heezy is covering the outside of these suckers - chia seeds. Yes, you can grow a bushy animal out of these but more importantly they pack protein, calcium, fiber and heart-healthy fat into your diet. These are a dream for vegetarians, given that they are a complete protein and you don't need to combine them with other food to get all the essential nutrients. Feel free to read more about them here.

One way I enjoy these little seeds is to soak them with oats and milk overnight in the fridge, so that I have a creamy, pudding-like breakfast the next morning. It tastes like dessert, but it's not. I'll give you a recipe for that in a couple days!

Anyway, I hope I provided a little bit more insight into how us vegetarians, athletes or not, get our protein. I get my chia seeds in the bulk bin at WinCo, but I've seen them at pretty much every grocery store lately. They've received a lot of positive publicity these days, and rightfully so!

Pumpkin Spice Protein Balls (Gluten-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free)
Adapted from Beth
Makes 10 balls

1/4 cup raw walnuts
1/2 cup oats
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
8 dried dates, pitted
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons pumpkin purée (I used canned)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Dash of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
roughly 1/4 cup chia seeds

1. Add the oats, walnuts and coconut to a food processor and blend until fairly ground. Remove and set aside until later.

2. In the now-empty food processor, process the dates until a thick paste forms. If your dates are really dry, feel free to add a tablespoon of water to thin it out a little.

3. To the dates, add in the peanut butter, pumpkin, spices, salt and vanilla and process a bit until thick and blended together.

4. Add in the processed oats, walnuts and coconut to the mix and blend all together until a ball seems to form in the processor. If it doesn't get this thick, add in more oats or walnuts to thicken it up a little.

5. Take the blade out of the processor and roll the dough into balls as big as you would like. Mine were about 1.5" in diameter. Roll into the chia seeds and then place them in a tupperware or on a plate. Store in the fridge!

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