Admittedly, these might look like something you’d hang out for the birds in winter but trust me, these dried fruit and nut balls are delicious. Ask my children – they love them in their packed lunches or after school as a quick and healthy snack.
They’re very easy to make and the recipe is extremely versatile – play around with the recipe and add your own favourite nuts and dried fruits. I’ve used dried apple in this version as I’d dried some of our own apples as one way of storing them. If you’ve never tried drying your own apples, you really should. The apples develop such a gorgeously intense flavour and they have a wonderfully satisfying texture, rather like chewing on a soft toffee but with none of the sugar-guilt. My girls can’t get enough of them.
If you fancy having a go, here’s what you do.
Peel and core your apples and cut into rings. Sprinkle with cinnamon or leave plain if you prefer. Spread out on a baking tray and put in a very, very low oven for a few hours. If you have an Aga you could put them in the bottom oven or do what we did and tie with string and hang in bundles over the top. They’re ready when they’ve gone all wrinkly and have gained that lovely chewy consistency.
We eat them as they are, chop them up and mix into plain yoghurt, or add them to homemade granola.
But back to those dried fruit and nut balls. It’s simply a case of whizzing up all the ingredient in a food processor and then using your hands to shape the resulting mixture into balls or, if you prefer, bars. It’s a fairly messy business, which is probably why children quite like getting involved.
Dried fruit and nut balls
100g blanched almonds
100g dried apple
100g dried fig
100g dried apricot
20g dessicated coconut
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple juice
Put the nuts and dried fruit into a food processor and process until it you end up with a mushy, sticky mixture.
Add the oil and apple juice and whiz again briefly to combine.
Mould the mixture in your hands into small balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge (for a couple of weeks) or the freezer (for a couple of months).
I wrap individual balls in foil, like sweetie wrappers, when I put them in the girls’ lunchboxes.
Since my children enjoy them in their lunchboxes, I’m including both these fruit and nut balls and the dried apple in November’s Family Foodies challenge, which as you probably know has lunchbox ideas as its theme.
I am handing over the Bangers & Mash reigns today to my good friend Trish Tucker-May, who runs an awesome juice bar company called Passion 4 Juice, which you may well have come across at one of this summer’s festivals.
I first met Trish a decade or so ago, when we were both pre-kids. I was in the throes of launching my own PR business and she was just setting up Passion 4 Juice. In fact she was one of my first clients. Trish was a real inspiration. I haven’t met many people with the same level of energy and zest for life as her, and it is quite infectious. So while I’ve never invited someone to do a guest post on here before, with Trish I know you will be in safe hands. And so without further ado, here is the lovely Trish and her extremely clever recipe for Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise…
How to make a guilt free and tasty pudding
Hi, I am Trish Tucker-May, an Aussie from Forster. You can’t get much more Aussie than that!
I have a pretty crazy life that some people dream about and others may think is just way too hard and crazy. I spend half the year working at summer festivals in the UK and half the year at festivals in Australia. I love travelling and the great outdoors and am passionate about bringing fresh juice and good health to people.
In 2003 I founded Passion 4 Juice Ltd an award winning juice bar company. I have written a small book about redesigning your life to live your passion and I have also self-published a recipe book called ‘Juice and Smoothie Recipes From Around the World’. Currently I am studying a Diploma in Nutritional Healing – and loving it! I am married to a professional clown and mum to 4-year-old Jack-Patrick (AKA Jackpot) and 2-year-old Roary.
I became a little concerned this week when I thought back over the last three suppers and realised that perhaps they weren’t as nutritious as they should be for my developing 2 and 4-year-old boys. Okay, lasagne is good wholesome food and so is spaghetti bolognaise, especially when I sneak in a handful of peas, grated carrots and whatever other veg I can put my hands on at the time.
I know these easy Italian favourites are perfect for my boys. But given my slight aversion (rather than intolerance) to wheat, dairy and meat, I was left craving something green, fresh, and raw. It was while I was pondering this dilemma that I came up with a fantastic idea. What if I could make something that satisfied my boy’s desire for sweet gooey pudding while also giving myself a treat packed with nutritional goodness? The Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise was born.
Firstly I put 2½ cups of nuts in the blender. I mixed what I had which was almonds, brazils and cashews – so that was 2½ cups in total, not of each nut. I blended until all the ingredients crumbled. Next I added ¾ cup of pitted dates and a pinch of salt. That was the base done.
Next came the slightly sneaky bit. My son Jackpot is very used to me sneaking all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients into my super green smoothies in the morning so I had to be careful not to be too obvious or I would get the “Mum it’s a bit too green for me, no thanks” treatment.
I peeled and cut a courgette, placed it in the blender with an avocado, a handful of mung bean sprouts, a handful of cashews, a splash of yoghurt , a cup of frozen passionfruit puree and a tablespoon of agave syrup. I love making raw food so I have all these ingredients to hand. If you don’t have agave syrup, honey will work just as well.
Blend until smooth and pour into the tin.
Next step is to decorate with whatever you have to hand. In this case I used kiwi and blueberries. The kiwi worked well so I called it Kiwi Blueberry Surprise. It seemed to go well with the green colour. Now the kids didn’t think it was green because of some crazy green vegetables.
Did I successfully satisfy both camps? We ate over half immediately and the boys were delighted. I was truly satisfied with the knowledge of raw sprouts, courgette and avocado for pudding. The following day my husband was home after working away. I served it with a question – “Bet you can’t guess what is in this?” He is accustomed to me making weird and wonderful creations out of fruit and veg so he had a head start. He got the avocado right but that was all.
I have since shared this idea with a few contacts on a Facebook juice group. They have taken the idea to inspiring new heights and added variations such as chocolate, strawberries, lemon juice, cacao powder, vanilla bean paste, a handful of cashews, flaked almonds, shredded coconut and cacao nibs. To be honest I think my first attempt needed a little extra something and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it – I think a squeeze of fresh lemon and an extra handful of cashews would have done the trick.
So if you are tempted to try this one at home, be daring and always taste as you go. Make sure it has just the right level of sweet, sour, salty or bitter to suit your taste buds. This is a truly guilt free tasty pudding that satisfies the entire family.
Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise
Blend the following and press into a flan tin and store in the fridge while mixing the filling:
2½ cups mixed nuts, such as almonds, cashews, brazils
¾ cup dates
pinch of salt
Blend the following and pour onto base:
1 peeled raw courgette
1 handful of raw cashews
1 handful of mung bean sprouts
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
¾ cup frozen passionfruit puree
2 tbsp raw agave syrup or honey
optional extra ingredients to taste
cashews, lemon juice, shredded coconut, raw cacao
Your choice of fresh fruit – I used sliced kiwi fruit and blueberries.
So what do you think? If you try this out on your family, we’d love to hear how it went down.
Someone once told me that when you start making your own granola, you never go back to eating the shop bought stuff again. And how right they were. I made up my first batch at the start of the summer and I’ve been addicted ever since. Better still, your homemade version will probably contain a lot less sugar and fat.
OK so it’s essentially a sweeter take on muesli but it’s so much tastier. Plus when you make your own you can use all your favourite fruits and nuts. So you don’t like dates? No problem, replace them with apricots or prunes instead!
While my husband’s not a fan, the girls and I like to eat it in the morning with yoghurt and fresh fruit. They call it the crunchy stuff. Whatever you call it, it’s a lovely start to the day I reckon.
My recipe is based loosely on one I found in a Leon cookbook, although it changes every time I make it depending on what I happen to have in the store cupboard. This is how I made my latest stash…
Put the oats and sunflower seeds in a large bowl, pour in the honey and oil and mix together well so the oats and seeds are completely coated. Cover a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper and spread the oat mixture evenly across it. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the oats are golden.
Meanwhile dry fry the hazelnuts and almonds on the hob until they are ever so slightly browned and leave to one side to cool.
When the oats have cooled, pour into a bowl and combine with the hazelnuts, almonds, dates, sultanas and currants.
Store in a large airtight container – a kilner jar is perfect. The granola will keep for around a month.