No-Bake Monster Cookie Energy Balls

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Every time I pack my cooler for a trip, it appears as though I’m looking through a veil of health consciousness, which clouds my vision and makes me believe that salad alone will keep me satisfied along my journey. Then, invariably, when I’m 35,000 feet up in the earth’s atmosphere, my enthusiasm for raw cauliflower seems to dissipate. When I start to lose interest in my rabbit food I fall victim to sweet cravings, and those hyper-processed, sugar-laden plane “muffins” start calling my name.

The story always ends the same. I give in and break into a forever-soft banana nut muffin. Halfway through the calorie bomb, I become aware of two developments: my energy has both peaked and crashed, and my stomach is suffering the consequences of sugar over-consumption.

So I learned quickly that I need to come prepared with some quasi nutritious options of my own in order to avoid that regretful feeling–both literally and figuratively–in my gut that comes from caving. I learned that I needed to bring a snack because sugar abstinence is not realistic for me. But I also learned that my sweets should hold some other nutritional value because I am an adult. Protein would be the key to stabilizing my blood sugar while I satisfy my unruly sweet tooth.

Monster trail mix has always been a favorite cheat snack of mine. I love the salty sweet balance between the peanut butter, raisins, and chocolate, and the protein keeps me full and energized for more miles on the trail. So I deconstructed the picky-kid friendly version of the snack and reassembled its parts into bite-size, protein-packed, no-bake monster cookie energy balls to energize my miles in the sky.

This is a really easy recipe to mold to your taste and your pantry inventory. So, replace whatever you don’t have or like with what you do and enjoy your creation.

Ingredients

1 cup oats (I used the gluten-free ancient grain and super seed oatmeal blend from–you guessed it–Trader Joe’s)
1/2 cup nut butter (I ended up mixing in sunflower seed butter when I ran out of crunchy peanutbutter)
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup mini M&M’s or mini chocolate chips (for a cleaner version, try some cacao nibs)
1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seeds

Mix all your ingredients up in a bowl and form into bite-size balls. Refrigerate, or freeze until you’re ready to pack them.

“Ice Cream” Trickery!

Creamy banana “ice cream” with almond butter and chocolate chips.

I have a sweet tooth. That much is clear. There are times when I’m willing to go to great lengths to get my hands on a treat. During those times, it’s not beneath my standards or level of self-respect to consume just about anything that falls under the “sweet” category to satiate my craving.

Double Stuf Oreos smothered in peanut butter and marshmallow fluff–because the double creme filling is not enough? Sure. Unbaked brownie batter (with the eggs purposefully omitted) by the spoonful? Absolutely. These gluttonous goodies are no more than garbage. The side effect? They make me feel as trashy as they are. Sure, there’s an element of instant gratification, but that wears off and I’m left feeling sickly from all the junk and guilty from my lack of self-control.

I admit my ability to satisfy my sugar cravings with creative combinations is notable. But I also care about my health, and in general I do try to make healthier food choices. Yes, it takes will power. And yes, it can feel like I’m sacrificing flavor and neglecting my primal desires. But that doesn’t always have to be the case!

I present to you banana “ice cream.” I call it ice cream because it looks, feels, smells, and tastes  like ice cream! I put it in quotes because it’s unbelievable trickery! This “ice cream” is creamy, sweet, rich, and totally delicious, but it’s made with only one ingredient: bananas! How can this be? Well, my friends, let me enlighten you.

The high levels of pectin, fiber and sugar give bananas their creamy consistency and sweet flavor. Plus, bananas are substantial–unlike many other fruits, bananas release energy slowly, which keeps you feeling fuller longer. All of these magical qualities remain consistent through freezing. Cut up some ripe bananas. Freeze them until they’re solid. Then whiz them in a blender or food processor until smooth, and you’ve got yourself ice cream!

Plain banana “ice cream” is great on it’s own, but it also acts as an excellent canvas onto which you can unleash your creative genius! You can blend in some Nutella if you’re into that sorta thing, or even cookie butter (I am most definitely into that sorta thing)! Add some frozen raspberries or peaches to the mix for a tuttier fruitier flare. Throw in some peanut butter, or whatever nut butter you prefer. Not only would this change the flavor; it would also add some protein to the mix to help you feel satisfied even longer. My personal favorite combination is almond butter and mini chocolate chips…because chocolate. Depending on the extras you choose, the nutritional value of the finished product will vary, but you’re still off to a much better, healthier start than if you were to eat regular ice cream.

Banana “Ice Cream”

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Cut bananas into small chunks. Arrange on a plate in a single layer and freeze until solid (about 2 hours)
  2. Place bananas in a food processor or powerful blender. Puree bananas until smooth and creamy. Add nut butter (or any other blendable ingredient of your choosing) and puree until well combined.
  3. Fold in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.

Enjoy immediately as soft-serve or save in the freezer for a harder ice cream consistency.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Barely sweet, majorly buttery, and nutty-crunchy, these Mexican Wedding Cookies will melt in your mouth and have you craving more.

Barely sweet, majorly buttery, and nutty-crunchy, these Mexican Wedding Cookies will melt in your mouth and have you craving more.

There are so many cookies to love in this world, and each of us has an opinion about which qualities comprise the best sort.

There’s the dense and chewy cookie that bends ever so slightly beneath the pressure of an eager bite for just a slow-motion moment until, finally, it gives way and breaks to expose its gooey, caramelized core, ripe and ready for a deliberate demise.

The cakey cookie is mighty in volume but modest in mass. This cookie with its light and airy texture yields a delicate, buttery crumb. Like a dream-inducing cumulus pillow of the culinary heavens, this soft morsel beckons its lover into a state of divine exaltation.

Then there’s the crispy cookie. This playful treat has as much fun performing a symphony of crunchety, munchety sound in the amphitheater of your mouth as you have conducting it. Each resonant bite a beautiful new voice in the canon of delightful satisfaction.

As far as consistency is concerned, I almost always opt for the chewy cookie. I find the extra time and effort it takes to get through it extremely gratifying. But no matter how we prefer our cookies, and whether we know it or not, butter is the ingredient we all desire. Not only is this ingredient a fundamental component of basically every pastry in the book; it’s also the linchpin of our food cravings. It’s fatty, sweet-creamy, and a little salty. It makes everything we put it in sinfully mouthwatering. Without butter, what fun would life even be? Perhaps that’s a bit extreme, but I’m stickin’ to it.

So every now and then I like to shake things up a bit and go for something out of my typical profile. Sometimes, I just want a passable excuse to eat a ball of butter, you know? I experienced this very phenomenon just the other day. The snowpocalypse that conquered the entire Northeast had me stuck inside in my comfiest sweater and my coziest wool socks. I figured I’d make use of my extra time the best way I know how: baking cookies! And so I decided on Mexican Wedding Cookies: a very passable excuse for eating butter like it’s a food group of its own. Maybe it was the wintery white scene outside that had me subconsciously craving snowball-shaped treats. Maybe it was the nostalgia of Grandma’s Mexican Wedding Cookie care packages, brought on by the snuggly atmosphere inside, that had me wanting to relive the loving sentiments and to taste that crumbly, buttery goodness. Whatever the reason, it was settled, and soon I’d be breaking my way into the nutty, crunchy, powdered-sugary treasure.

Mexican Wedding Cookies, known by many different names–Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, Italian Butter Nuts, Southern Pecan Butterballs–are so well loved around the world that multiple countries claim them as their own. Mexican Wedding Cookies are perfect in their simplicity. These humble little cookies, coated in sweet powdered sugar feel cool at the first taste, only to melt on your tongue moments later, giving way to a tender, crumbly center that is nutty, just a touch sweet, and buttery as can be.  Mexican Wedding Cookies are the delicious answer to your butter-fiending prayers.

So give butter some credit. Then go give into its tempting allure and bake yourselves some of these satisfying cookies. Mexican Wedding Cookies are super simple. They require only a few ingredients, and they demand minimal effort. These delicious balls of love pack a whole lotta “wow!” that will have you and all your friends glad you were trapped in your apartment.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped into very small pieces.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 275º F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat Mat
  2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar at low speed until smooth
  3. Combine salt and flour and gradually mix into the butter at low speed
  4. Fold in pecans with a spatula
  5. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  6. Once dough is chilled, dust hands with flour and roll one inch balls to place on cookie sheet (they do not spread, so no need to worry about placing them close together)
  7. Bake for 40 minutes
  8. When cool enough to handle, roll in powdered sugar to coat and repeat one more time
Roll your cookies in powdered sugar twice for an extra thick, melty coating.

Roll your cookies in powdered sugar twice for an extra thick, melty coating.

Enjoy!