Happy Mother’s Day! Well, Happy *almost* Mother’s Day! If you’re anything like me, you’ll still end up doing a load of laundry or breaking up battling offspring. Nevertheless, we are Moms, or aspiring Moms-to-Be, and our day is a-comin’. It doesn’t matter if you are a Mom, Dad, or child; these vegan Cherry-Guava Protein Bites are a must for snacking on throughout your day. Moms, especially breastfeeding moms, will benefit hugely from the protein density of these bites. Just one offers eight percent of the daily recommended amount of protein. For people like me who don’t always eat throughout the day (no, the irony is not lost on me), popping a few of these gives me enough energy to get through the day. They also taste amazing; which is, let’s face it, the main reason I eat them.
I mentioned my foray into veganism in an earlier post. The one thing I will always remember about that disaster was my lack of education on what veganism is, exactly. Something as simple as knowing that I could’ve (should’ve) replaced meat with things like nuts, beans, or tofu. The lack of protein in my diet caused muscle atrophy, hair loss, and an overall look of sickliness. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, and the fact that veganism is more mainstream now than it was twent*cough, cough*years ago, I could totally go vegan again with my acquired knowledge. I won’t, mind you, I’m just saying I could if I wanted to. But, again, I won’t. Just in case you weren’t clear on that.
Nuts are a great source of protein! Nuts and nut butters provide the highest amount of protein after meat, tofu, and legumes (or beans). This particular recipe was created because I saw this fancy coconut almond butter in my local supermarket. My girl Twink despises peanut butter, so I’m always looking for new butters to introduce her to. My mission in life, prior to booting her out of the nest, is to have her eat a good ol’ fashioned PB&J. The type of nut butter on it is irrelevant. I just want her to be a normal kid for once. It’s bad enough she doesn’t like bananas, but her idea of a “childhood sandwich” is a grilled chèvre and applewood smoked bacon sandwich with caramelized onions. I mean, really!!
Anyway, enough about my abnormal child. The nuts I’m using for this recipe are almonds and walnuts. Normally, I’d use cashews, but the Soldier is a bit of a priss when it comes to his nuts…wait…I mean…you know what? You need to stop.
Nuts should always be toasted prior to using them in your recipes. Although toasting nuts that are going to be folded into baked, or cooked, dishes isn’t necessary; I toast nuts in a warm oven to heat up those essential oils that bring out their flavor. The nuts only need to be toasted for ten minutes at three-fifty. Once that’s done, all baking you’ll need to do is done too!
I always recommend using unsalted nuts because, well, salted protein balls aren’t all that tasty. That, added to the fact that there’s already naturally-occuring or added sodium in most of these ingredients, and you’re doing your blood pressure no favors by adding more. That being said, if you don’t have any other nuts but salted in the house, go ahead and use them.
Cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, or brazil nuts are all great nuts to try in this recipe. As always, I encourage you to mix and match to create new versions.
Once your nuts are toasted and fragrant, again about ten minutes; pulse them to break them up in your food processor. You’re goal is to break them down into crumbs, not to create a butter from them. This will help make the final product as smooth and homogenous as possible.
Most of the protein/energy ball recipes I’ve come across on the interwebs call for pitted dates. Every protein ball that I’ve tried that used pitted dates tasted sickeningly, cloyingly sweet. While that may be some people’s bag of chips, it’s not mine, so I’m using dried sour cherries instead. Any dried fruit is going to taste highly sweetened just because the fructose is concentrated due to the evaporation of the water in the fruit. With a dried sour cherry, I’m not stuck with a sugary-sweet fruit. I like to rehydrate the cherries in a couple of tablespoons of hot water mixed with a teaspoon of vanilla. Allowing the cherries to sit in this mixture while the nuts are toasting helps to bind the balls at the end when it’s time to roll.
Once you’re ready to begin, drain the cherries, reserving the cherry liquid in case you need to use it later. Add the cherries to the nuts in food processor. If you don’t want to make a cherry-guava bite, try blueberries or dried strawberry. I just have a thing for the humble cherry, so I prefer them over the others.
After adding the cherries, pour in the old-fashioned rolled oats. Rolled oats are a must in this recipe because of how much fiber they provide to the balls. You can’t use the instant (quick cooking oats) because they’re basically pulverized, powdered oats which will turn gummy. The whole grain steel-cut oats are too hearty to break down properly in the food processor. These rolled oats from Bob’s Red Mill are my go-to’s. I use them in my granolas, I blend them into my smoothies for added fiber, and I also cook them for the family for breakfast.
Add unsweetened shredded coconut (I also use Bob’s Red Mill for this) to the bowl as well. Unsweetened and unsalted, these are key words when making recipes. I want to be in control of all the levels of sugar and salt in my dishes. When you use sweetened or salted ingredients, you give up that control to the brand who’s manufacturing your products. Those levels will vary from brand to brand and you’ll never achieve a consistent recipe that way. These cherry-guava beauties deserve to be consistently good, and when you give them out to family and friends and get them hooked, they’ll expect them to taste the same.
Now add golden flax seed. This ancient seed not only adds more fiber, it’s also full of omega-3 fatty acids which, along with the rolled oats, are great for maintaining a healthy-heart.
Chia seeds, also a great source of omega-3’s are the next thing going into the mix. These Amazonian super-seeds are packed with fiber and antioxidants as well as being high in protein. I love adding these to my morning yogurt parfaits, or making chia pudding jars for the Soldier to take in to work.
Another punch of antioxidants come from a tablespoonful of açaí powder. Antioxidants are just what they sound like: molecules that prevent the oxidation of other molecules. They inhibit the growth and movement of free radicals inside the body which lead to a whole host of health issues. Açaí berries, found in the Amazon rainforests, are loaded with antioxidants- and they also make food look pretty. The powder isn’t cheap, but a little goes a long way. If you can’t stomach the cost, just omit it- the cherry-guava bites will still taste delicious.
Pulse these ingredients together for two to three minutes, scraping down the bowl after a minute-and-a-half.
Honey is added to the mixture as a sweetener and a binding agent. This all-natural, local honey does amazing things to control allergies. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, try using local, raw honey to see if it helps. If you don’t like or use honey, try agave or maple syrup instead.
Now for the inspiration- the coconut almond butter. It may seem like a lot, but it’s just what we need to bind together all of those chunky ingredients. Don’t like coconut-almond butter? Use plain almond, peanut, or cashew butter, instead.
Now pulse together everything to get the “cherry” part of the cherry-guava balls rolling. No pun intended.
The final ingredient to add to the pre-rolled mix is the guava paste. Initially, I just attempted to break up the firm, sweet-tart paste and add it to the bowl. I realized (after a long battle with the food processor), that melting it down in the microwave prior to adding it was smarter. Not only did it soften up the guava paste which made incorporating it into the mix easier, it also acted as an additional binder. Nuke it on high for a minute, then add it to the food processor.
Pulse everything together for one to two minutes, or until the mix is bound together.
The mix should hold together when formed into a ball. If you find the ball breaks apart when you attempt to roll it, you can add a tablespoon of the reserved cherry water.
Set up a parchment, or silicone mat, lined sheet pan to hold your rolled and coated bites. (I just use the same pan I used to toast the nuts.) Using a #40 portion scoop (one and a half tablespoons) scoop some of the mix into the palm of your hand. Roll the mixture into a tight ball pressing to make it compact and hold together.
Roll the ball into the unsweetened shredded coconut, pressing into the coconut to make sure it’s coated well. This step is optional if you don’t like too much coconut.
Continue rolling and coating the balls like so. Place each ball onto the lined sheet pan leaving an inch between each ball.
Once you’ve rolled all the balls, place the pan into the fridge to allow the balls to firm up. This usually takes thirty minutes to an hour.
Once the bites are firm, transfer them to an air-tight container, or wrap them in plastic candy wrappers.
Store these in the fridge for up to two weeks. They’ll never last that long, I guarantee it. Share this with your crew and pin it for those days you need a hit of protein!
Cherry-Guava Protein Bites
- 3/4 cup unsalted almonds whole
- 3/4 cup unsalted walnuts shelled
- 1 cup dried sour cherries rehydrated in 2 tbsp water and 1 tsp vanilla extract for ten minutes
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut plus more for rolling
- 1 tbsp golden flax seeds
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp açaí powder optional
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup coconut-almond butter
- 1/2 cup guava paste softened in the microwave for 1 minute
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. On a silicone lined sheet pan, toast the nuts in the oven until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the nuts to cool slightly. In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse the nuts to break them into crumbs.
- Drain your rehydrated the cherries, reserving the liquid in case you need to use it in the balls later. Add the cherries to the nuts in food processor, followed by the oats, the coconut, flax and chia seeds, and the açaí powder. Pulse these ingredients together for two to three minutes, scraping down the bowl after a minute-and-a-half.
- Add the honey and coconut almond butter, and pulse everything together for two more minutes. Scrape the bowl down after a minute of pulsing.
- Add the softened guava paste to the food processor and pulse everything together for one to two minutes, or until the mix is bound together. The mix should hold together when formed into a ball. If you find the ball breaks apart when you attempt to roll it you can add a tablespoon of the cherry water.
- Scoop some of the mix into the palm of your hand. Roll the mixture into a tight ball, pressing, to compact it and hold together. Roll the ball in the unsweetened shredded coconut, pressing into the coconut to make sure it's well-coated. If you don't like too much coconut this step is optional.
- Leaving a one inch space between them, place each ball onto the same lined sheet pan that you used to toast the nuts.
- Once you've rolled all the balls, place the pan into the fridge to firm up. This usually takes thirty minutes to an hour. Once the bites are firm, transfer them to an air-tight container, or wrap them in plastic candy wrappers. These bites will keep, under refrigeration, for up to two weeks.