Have you ever wondered what a perfect bite of the Christmas Holiday tastes like? I think for each of us, the holiday has a unique memory. Maybe it is the taste of peppermint candy canes, spiked egg nog or grandmas’ cinnamon rolls in the morning.
I was sitting down with a snuggly cup of fragrant TWG’s Noel Noel Tea. I closed my eyes and thought to myself this does tastes just like the perfect cup of Christmas. I can almost hear Santa and his sleigh landing on the roof of my high-rise in Hong Kong.
I can smell the essence of citrus, cinnomen, allspice, ginger and maybe even a hint of vanilla wafing from my steamy cup of tea.
I was woken abruptly from my deep plum fairy slumber by my two hungry teenagers. The eldest one said, “Mom there is no real food or snacks in this house only like nuts, dried fruits and what the heck are chia seeds anyways..?”
My youngest boy said, “Mom I have two weeks of IGCSE exams and I want to have healthy snacks that can give me some quick energy but taste good.”
I took another sip of my fragrant TWG Noel Noel tea and began looking at my panty inventory. My eldest was right all I have is a lot of nuts and seeds and such. I took another sip of my Noel Noel tea and then I had and hallelujah type moment.
Granola is so last year.
Instead, I made delightful cranberry spiced holiday balls with pecans, walnuts, dates, dried cranberries, spices and orange zest that would make sugar plums dance in your head and make Mrs. Claus proud. These little holiday wonders are chewy, sweet and little bit tart, fragrant and full of wholesome goodness and Christmas spices. They are rolled in a little ground almonds that looks like fresh snow.
These little Cranberry spiced holiday balls are gluten-free, lactose free, egg free, vegan, and even can work in small portions on a paleo diet. In addition, no oven is required to make these little delicious bites. They are great as gifts and store easily in the freezer until you are ready to serve. You can even feel like you are being a little bit naughty but still be true to your diet as you give yourself a little treat this holiday season.
I used my food processor to grind up my pecan and walnuts. (If you do not own a food processor you may be able to use a blender but a little more difficult or use a mortal and pestal for nuts and chop fruits with knife but it is a lot more work.) A lesson learned here is that if you decide to put your nuts in the food processor, don’t decide to help your kids with their homework or start on dinner until you remember to take your finger off the pulsed button. I already have completed this scientific experiment for you so need to try this at home for yourselves, if you pulse nuts one step beyond ground it becomes “nut butter”. I now have some fantastic pecan butter that is actually quite lovely and have been using it to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. However, the consistency you are looking for here is a rough crumble.
I also experimented with a few ingredients and found dried cranberries in the health food store without any added sugar or oils which was an added bonus. (If you are not following a paleo or diabetic diet then it is okay to use regular pre-sweetened dried cranberries). A bit of fresh citrus zest adds a vibrant flavour to these little Holiday Balls.
I used naturally sweet dried Medjool dates as a method for making my holiday balls sweet without adding any unrefined sugar and as a way to bind my ingredients together.
In another science experiment, I put my dried seedless dates in the food processor and tried to pulse. Smoke came from the motor of the food processor while it working so hard to try to break up the dates. I tried to add a teaspoon of water to my dried fruit and it went around a bit easier. With the second batch, I pre-soaked the dates in with a few teaspoons of hot water first and that worked like a charm. No more smoke came bellowing from the food processor motor and I was able to make a soft date paste.
I ran one other successful experiment and made a different type of health bar much like a “Lara bar” for my youngest son to get through IGCSE exam week with dates, walnuts and cocoa nibs. He is actually going for these little health bars instead of the Christmas cookies stashed in the freezer. Amazing!!!
Organic Cocoa nibs are made from pure cacao beans that come straight out of the tropical cacao fruit. They are peeled and crumbled from whole cacao beans and are nature chocolate chips without any unrefined sugar. Cocoa nibs high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. I used one cup of dates, one cup of mixed walnuts and raw almonds, 2 tablespoons of cocoa nibs and a dash of vanilla and mixed together. I put parchment on the bottom of a flat tupperware 8×6 and then spooned and pressed the mixture flat. I froze the bars for about 6 hours and cut into little 2×2 squares and poof the batch is already gone. Inhaled by the teenagers who said they would never go near my healthy dates and nuts.
I am keeping my Cranberry Spiced holiday Balls and Cocoa Nib bars in the freezer as I love these little treats chewy, cold and fresh. Don’t tell me I did not warn you but these little treats are completely addictive. Feel free to substitute any of your favorites nuts, fruits or spices as you like.
Go ahead and whip up a batch of cranberry spiced holiday balls this weekend and you can have something a little naughty and nice to keep you feeling satisfied over the holiday season without blowing your diet.
These little holiday wonders are chewy, sweet and little bit tart, fragrant and full of wholesome goodness and Christmas spices. Makes about 14-16 holiday balls.
- walnuts - 1 cup (120 grams)
- pecans - 1/2 cup (60 grams)
- dates - 1 cup pitted (250 grams)(Medjooul or your preference)
- cranberries - 1/2 cup dried
- water - 1/4 cup of hot water to soften dates and cranberries
- ginger - 1 teaspoon
- cinnamon - 1 teaspoon
- allspice - 1 teaspoon
- orange zest - 1 teaspoon
- almond meal - 1/2 cup (finely ground raw almonds)
Step 1: Place hot water in dates and cranberries to soften for about 30 minutes.
Step 2: Place walnuts and pecans in food processor to crush until a coarse meal. If you like your bars more crunchy do it less and if you like your bars more chewy pulse more but not so long that you make nut butter.
Step 3: Drain dates and cranberries of extra water and place in food processor to chop and mix until you have a date paste. Mix cranberries in food processor until a coarse meal.
Step 4: Mix the date paste, cranberries, ground pecans and walnuts together.
Step 5: Add ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest to mixture and mix well.
Step 6: Form into 1.5 inch balls and roll into ground almond meal and place into Christmas paper cups.
Step 7: Place Cranberry Spiced Holiday Bars in freezor for at least 6 hours or overnight and serve. You may just want to keep them stored in the freezor as they are really nice cold and chewy.
Step 8: Wrap up and give away for gifts or simply enjoy as a healthy snack anytime you need a little energy.