Back in 2008, I was a real Larabar junkie. As I walked to my car after work, I was often desperate for a boost in energy to fuel my 75 minute commute home. Larabars gave me enough energy to get through the long stretch until we had a late dinner around 8pm. I was rarely without a bar in my purse.
Granted, my once a day habit became a bit costly after a while so I decided to take a crack at making my own homemade bars to save a bit of cash. At the end of 2008, I discovered that they are quite easy to make in a food processor for a fraction of the cost. I soon made Banana Bread, Cashew cookie, Cherry Pie, and Chocolate Chip Cookie dough, among other knock-off flavas.
I now buy Larabars once and a while for convenience (if I’m out somewhere on the road and need a healthy vegan snack), but it’s comforting to know that I can also make something similar in my own home if I have the chance.
Ever since the move last week I’ve been on a big energy ball kick and relying a lot on no-bake recipes, as you’ve seen with vegan overnight oats and Green Monsters. Energy balls also provide long-lasting energy for busy days and are great for traveling and fueling before and after workouts. You wouldn’t think they dissipate hunger, but I find they really do a good job at delaying hunger in between meals. Nuts are a magical food! Just tuck a few in your purse and you have a portable, emergency snack on hand if you find yourself with a grumbling tummy and a lack of healthy food options.
I’m also working on a nut-free energy ball and granola bar recipe for those of you with allergies, as well as a bar inspired by one of the new Uber Larabar flavours. I told ya, I’m on a kick…
Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites
These energy bites are inspired by Larabar’s new Chocolate Chip Cherry Torte flavour. I prefer to roll them into bite sized balls rather than bars because it’s much faster, but shape them however you wish.
Yield: 15 small bites
- 1 cup whole raw almonds
- 120 grams pitted Medjool (not honey) dates (about 8 )
- 1/2 cup dried sweetened cherries
- 3 tbsp dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Camino brand)
- 1/4 cup raw pecans
- Kosher or sea salt, to taste
1. In a food processor, process the almonds until finely chopped. It’s ok if some bigger pieces remain. Just be sure not to pulverize it into a flour as you want some texture.
2. Remove 1/3 cup of the processed almonds and set aside for the final step.
3. Now, add the pitted dates in (along with the almonds already in the processor) and process until finely chopped and sticky. A dough will start to form. Add cherries and process again until combined. The mixture will likely form into a large ball. If this happens, break it up with a spoon and process more if necessary.
4. Add in the chocolate chips and pecans and process until they are just chopped. Add salt to taste. Pulse in the reserved 1/3 cup almonds for texture. Roll into small balls. Place in a container or baggie and store in the fridge or freezer. Oh yea, don’t forget to pop a few in your purse!
Nutritional info (makes 15 small balls, per ball): 108 cals, 7 grams fat (1 g sat fat), 40 mg sodium, 13 grams carbs, 3 grams fibre, 9 grams sugar, 3 grams protein.
This recipe makes 1 and 1/2 cups of packed dough….mmm. I’ve concluded it’s impossible not to eat it straight from the processor!
Get ready for a burst in energy…these bites are irresistible!
The Book Of Vegan Swaps Review
Recently, I was asked to participate in the Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps book tour along with several other bloggers. You may be familiar with the sassy & no nonsense vegan crusader Kim Barnouin – co-author of the famous Skinny Bitch book, along with several other guides and cookbooks. Kim holds a masters degree in Holistic nutrition and she’s counseled countless celebrities, athletes, and models to follow her plan. While I’ve personally never been a fan of the term “skinny bitch”, I’ll be the first to admit that her first book was largely responsible for my decision to try eating vegetarian back in university. It was also one of the first wake up calls I’ve had about how cruel the industry can be to animals.
Kim is now back with her Book of Vegan Swaps – a guide for finding vegan products in your own grocery store, airport, or restaurant.
The Book of Vegan Swaps is a guide for newly transitioning vegans who are in those first awkward stages of figuring out what – and where – to eat. The chapters feature where to shop, a restaurant guide (most are in the US only, fyi), vegan options at airports (also mostly in the US), decoding labels (how to detect hidden animal ingredients- very useful), and grocery store swaps for dairy, meat, condiments, frozen foods, desserts, alcoholic beverages, and more.
When I first made a gradual shift to a vegan diet in 2009 I had no clue what to eat, so I instantly related to the need for this book, even though it’s now been a long time since I’ve felt confused about what to eat. Now, my only difficulty seems to be choosing what to make among so many options. Like anything new, it can take time to feel comfortable with the change and I totally get that.
When I first started out on my vegan journey, I filled my cart with a variety of imitation meat and dairy products like Tofurkey, fake sour cream, and Ives ground round. I really had no clue what a vegan diet should (or could) look like and to make matters more challenging, I also didn’t know how to prepare my own balanced vegan recipes at home. Well if I’m going to be really honest, I didn’t know how to cook at all. As they say, I could barely boil water!
Not surprisingly, I realized that I didn’t feel so great eating these imitation products every day and my body started to crave more natural stuff. I finally had to teach myself how to cook and bake my own vegan meals and that’s exactly what I’ve documented on this blog for the past 3 years. I revisited naturally vegan foods (beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, veggies, and fruit, etc!) to fill up most of my diet, with the occasional splurge on imitation products as I saw fit. When I made those gradual changes, everything started to fall into place and I realized I didn’t miss my old go-to products at all. My energy also increased, my skin broke out less, and I knew I was on my way to being the vegan ninja I always wanted to be. Of course, everyone’s experience will be unique, but this has been mine.
I think this guide is very helpful for locating tasty vegan products and vegan brands, especially when you have a killer craving for a cheese pizza or bowl of rich and creamy ice cream and you don’t know where to turn. There are so many vegan options out there now, many of which taste as good (or better) than the real thing. Best of all, these vegan products are cruelty-free, allowing you to satisfy your craving without contributing to the harm of animals. You’ll find all of Kim’s recommendations in there – and let me tell you, there are hundreds of specific brand suggestions for every kind of food you can think of from wine to waffles and everything in between.
With that being said, I believe it’s equally important to keep in mind that a vegan diet does not have to rely on packaged, imitation, and/or processed products. This is also a sentiment that Kim mentions in the beginning of the book and I appreciate that she’s honest when a food mentioned isn’t the healthiest or contains many artificial ingredients. I wish there would have been more emphasis on this though. She also includes about 10 of her vegan recipes in the book and I found myself wanting many more recipes, but I realize this guide was not intended to be a cookbook.
So go on and enjoy your Dandies marshmallows or soy jerky as a splurge or when time is tight. Just don’t forget to add some natural vegan staples in your cart while you’re at it and take pleasure in making something from scratch in your own home. Really, there’s no better swap than that.