What better way to nourish your kids and harness their endless energy than getting them into the kitchen with you making energy balls! As most parents know, the time between 3 and 6pm can often be chaotic, as kids are worn out and overstimulated from school, but dinner still needs to get made, homework done and often there is some other activity that needs to be attended to, like gymnastics or soccer. Not to mention they are hungry after school and they need to eat something that will give them some immediate fuel but also not fill them up too much before dinner.
Well on a day that doesn't involve chauffeuring them around and the spring rain is falling and preventing you from getting outside, find a kitchen activity to create and harness energy in one fell swoop! This recipe is so straightforward that the kids can do it without much adult supervision as there is no use of the oven or any sharp utensils. Plus it has chocolate in it so you know they're going to buy in to helping! It's also incredibly adaptable to what you have on hand in your pantry (or if your family has an allergy to contend with).
Getting kids cooking is so key to helping them develop a connection to their food and gain essential skills to carry them through life. And you can start at any age!
Check out these videos to see my 2 year old helping make muffins and frittata: http://www.bettertogetherbc.ca/contest/video/nora-makes-muffins
She was cracking eggs, stirring, pouring and tearing leaves at age 2. Now that she's 8 years old, she uses a knife safely, flips pancakes like a pro, presses her own tortillas and even makes a couple signature dishes...deviled eggs and kale chips! And I've let her take over my Tofu 101 recipe (see my earlier post) as she is mostly vegetarian and sometimes needs her own protein source for a family meal. She literally takes work off my plate! Maybe she'll even do a guest blog one day...
And a quick aside--this contest is just getting underway for this year! We've had so much fun doing it as a family and even won the popular vote in 2014! http://www.bettertogetherbc.ca/contest/video/make-funny-faces-on-homemade-corn-tortillas-bean-heads. I highly recommend entering a video or at least supporting with your votes!
Anyway, back to the ball of energy...my son Max! He's a little harder to wrangle in the kitchen but he can focus in when he wants to. And does he ever need these kinds of snacks in the freezer. He's just like his dad...wakes up hungry and doesn't stop eating until his head hits the pillow! Nuts and seeds are absolutely essential for us to have on hand for their nutrient density, portability and because they can fill you up fast.
We pack a lot of protein into these by using hemp hearts but if those aren't on hand, any other nut or seed will do. You just might need to pulse them a bit first to make sure they aren't too chunky. The sweetness of these energy balls come from nutritious, high-fibre and mineral-rich dates. Nature's candy! Pitted, soaked and pureed dates can be the sweet base for so many recipes in place of refined sugar and then you can feel so good about eating a sweet treat. These are not only great for kids--they are a good post-workout snack or mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Makes 24 balls
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup hemp hearts
1 cup coconut
1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Place dates in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over top, covering by an inch. Place a lid over and let soak 15 minutes or longer. Drain but reserve 1/2 cup liquid.
In a food processor, puree dates until smooth, adding liquid as necessary to form a paste. Add in remaining ingredients and pulse until a thick, sticky dough is formed. You may need to add the rest of the date liquid.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper then scoop approximately 1.5 tablespoons of dough for each ball. You can roll them by hand into balls or leave them more roughly shaped from the scoop.
Place in freezer for minimum 2 hours. Defrost slightly before eating. They should be stored in the freezer and can keep for up to 3 months.
Nutrients (per ball): 210 Calories; 14 g Fat; 18 g Carbs; 4.5 g Fibre; 10 g Sugar; 8 g Protein.