My friend, Chef AJ, teaches healthy vegan cooking classes. At the end of a special 6-week session, she inspired her students to take on a unique challenge—to create their own, from-scratch NUT BALL recipe as a dessert treat. To make this challenge even more exciting, she gave them a deadline and said there would be a contest and an enticing prize.
Chef AJ gave her students a rough recipe for the Nut Balls and asked that they design their recipe without any kind of traditional sweetener—only dates. There were no restrictions on ingredients—only that they be natural, unrefined, and unprocessed.
On the evening of Sunday, April 4, three of us intrepid tasters participated in judging this unique and very spirited event—my husband and I and Kimberly Elliott (because she hates healthy food and will only eat stuff that tastes really great.) Of AJ’s nine students, five of them entered their creations and made enough Nut Balls for all of the 15 to 20 attendees to taste as well. Though the event took on a raucous party-like atmosphere, there was a serious edge to the contest–the judging was to be based on appearance, taste, and creativity. The entire group also voted.
Knowing what lay ahead, my husband and I ate lightly for dinner to keep our palates refreshed and clear. Each of the Nut Balls was innovatively conceived, deliciously indulgent, and looked visually engaging, but two recipes stood out from the rest for their exceptional taste and out-of-the-box creativity.
Following are the NUTTY BALLS recipes along with their photos that are so enticing you might want to reach into the dish and nab one:
NUT BALLS by YiFan Rao
Yield: about 25 to 30 one-inch balls
1 1/2 cups of raw almonds
1 cup of macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup of dried pineapple, diced
1 cup of dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup of raw almonds, roughly chopped
10 to 12 dates, soaked in water overnight
1 cup golden flax seeds
1. Grind the 1 1/2 cups of raw almonds to a fine meal in the food processor and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add the macadamias, pineapple, apricots and the 1/2 cup chopped almonds to the bowl.
3. Chop the dates and add them to the bowl. Mix well until the mixture becomes sticky.
4. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands, then, roll the balls in the flax seeds to coat them completely. Place the balls into a covered container and freeze. Serve the balls frozen, partly defrosted, or room temperature.
Note: If you prefer sweeter balls, add more dates to taste.
The balls are very sweet for my taste so I rolled them in golden flax seeds to offset the sweetness. Since many people thought the flax seeds were sesame, I’m sure sesame seeds will work just as well. …YiFan
NUT BALLS by Paula Shields
Yield: 18 to 20 one-inch balls
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw almonds, soaked for several hours
1 1/2 teaspoons non-alcoholic vanilla extract
10 to 12 dates soaked in water overnight
1 tablespoon goji berries
1 tablespoon raisins (black, golden, or a blend)
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs, slightly ground
1/4 cup dried coconut, finely ground
1. Combine all the ingredients, except the dried coconut, in the food processor and process to a fine or slightly chunky consistency, adding the date soaking water as needed to moisten and bind the ingredients together.
2. Form into balls by hand and roll each one in the ground coconut. Place the balls into a covered container and put them into the freezer. Serve frozen or room temperature.
Note: Dried cranberries would also make a tasty addition.
NUT BALLS by Wolfie Cavender
Yield: about 40 one-inch balls
2 cups raw cashews
1 1/2 cups raw sunflower seeds
1 3/4 cups cacao powder, divided
2 cups of dates, finely chopped
1 cup of dried cherries, finely chopped
1. Place the cashews and sunflower seeds into the food processor and process them until they are finely ground.
2. Add 1/2 cup of the cacao powder, the dates, and the cherries to the food processor and process until all the ingredients are finely ground.
3. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands. Place the remaining cacao powder into a bowl and roll the balls in the powder, coating them completely.
4. Place the finished balls into a covered container and freeze them. Serve them frozen, partially thawed, or room temperature.
Note: The balls are quite firm and dense. Soaking the dates or cherries or both will create balls with a more moist texture.
NUT BALLS by Pamela Lopez
Yield: about 24 one-inch balls
1 cup raw almonds, finely ground in food processor
3/4 cup sunflower seeds, finely ground
1/4 cup cacao powder
1 cup chopped dates
1 handful raw cacao nibs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1. Combine the nuts, seeds, and cacao powder in the food processor and pulse briefly.
2. Add the dates, cacao nibs, and vanilla extract and process until the mixture becomes well blended and sticky.
3. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls by rolling between the palms of the hands and then roll them in cacao powder. Place the balls into a covered, shallow, plastic container and freeze them. Serve frozen, slightly thawed, or room temperature.
Note: To vary the recipe, use pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or a mixture in place of the sunflower seeds. Other dried fruits like goji berries or cherries may be used instead of or in addition to the dates.
NUT BALLS by Matthew Weisman
My recipe was the same as Pamela’s, but I used raw pistachios instead of the raw almonds.