Almond Apple Sweet Balls

I love a good challenge!

I stated that with so much enthusiasm, but I really have to take a few steps back and reconsider my statement. It depends on the challenge. Challenging personalities, no thanks.

An adventure race (think Ragnar Relay) - yes please!

Team Zensah killing it at Ragnar FL Keys '13

Finding a vegan item on a traditional all-American menu, making a stop in the middle-of-nowhere-town on a road trip, with a growling empty stomach? I think No, thanks.

But what about: Devising a new recipe for a sweet treat, using only the items found in my kitchen that day? Only using fruits and nuts, no grains or legumes what so ever (including cacao! that one ingredient that makes every dessert eatable).

All raw, vegan, gluten free? I say Yes to that challenge!

That’s a challenge that makes me grow as a vegan. As a cook. Neigh, it makes me grow as a human being!

Delicious almond apple sweet balls

I have extensive experience living on a “restricted diet”. Do not get me wrong, it does not make controlling my tongue and my senses easier, that still takes practice and is a trial and error process, daily.

However, I was faced early in my life with a fact I cannot (and should not) eat everything that is presented to us. Like my puppy does. He is so happy finding anything chewable and smelly on the floor, he will eat it although I feed him doggie’s finest at home. I apologize if that offends people. But, eating certain things that resemble food, although they are definitely nothing more than a blend of artificial flavors, sugar and processed items that used to be single ingredients, is never advisable if you ask me. Ever. Even if it’s your birthday, your friends birthday, you just survived a break-up, there is a better way of celebrating with food than eating …. insert the name of the most processed salty or sweet treat you can think of (Twinkies are the first thing that comes to mind. No, it gets worse. Deep fried Twinkies!).

You can always buy a better cookie. Healthier chips. There are such things! Artificial flavors plus aspartame as a sweetener, blended in with most contaminated water you can think of = equals unhealthy no matter how many negative calories the package claims it has.

I am well aware of the life we lead, and it is amazing, a blessing, we have access to foods at any point in our day and night, anywhere. It is also a curse. Because we think about what we eat just a bit less, day by day, generation by generation. Just because something is available and sold as food (and someone is making great money on it, investing very very little in it) does not mean we should be buying it and eating it. Period.

When you look at our lifestyles from that perspective, you understand that ‘restrictive’ diet isn’t the correct term. I honestly have never met a person that eats EVERYTHING. If by everything you mean burgers and ice-cream, trying the most greasy kebab in the most underground restaurant on your trip to NYC, great. I bet then that person does not eat kale, pomegranate, amaranth. There is no such thing as eating everything. Usually, the things I find delicious, people who think I eat like a cow find them disgusting, and vice versa. And that is fine.

Fruit madness!

Eating “everything” honestly does not appeal me in any way, whether I’m the one doing it or someone else. I believe everyone has, and should cultivate, their own taste. Taste in music, men, fashion. So obviously, taste in FOOD - it is what brings out your qualities, and awareness of your own body, mind and lifestyle. The more we build our inner taste from a place of listening to our bodies, our biological intuition, as opposed to eating what we are taught and trained to do by our families, culture, environment, the more refined our taste will be to achieve optimal health.

Back to my statement - I have extensive experience with a restrictive diet.

I grew up severely allergic to many things that limited my childhood pastimes (pet hair - and I always wanted a pup; dust - so my parents didn’t let me play at a whole lot of indoor spaces, etc.). My allergies changed regularly, and I would often end up in the ER with severe stomach issues or skin rashes without knowing what triggered it - because I ate something I was newly allergic to.

The most difficult allergies to handle, the one’s that restricted my foods seriously, where dairy and white flour (not gluten, but highly processed wheat). That meant no chocolate, no sweets, no pastries, no pasta and breads, NO to majority of foods kids ate around me. Let me make this clear: cheeses, yogurts, cakes, and a great variety of breads, pastries, pastas and lasagnas basically make up a European diet. Not because we only know those foods, but because those preparations are simply fabulous in Croatia! Switching from vegetarianism to veganism wasn’t a problem once I moved stateside because the cheese here is, well in one word pathetic compared to the varieties we are familiar with.

I drank soy milk way before it was the new thing (90’s in Croatia - veganism wasn’t too popular, vegetarianism was barely known to some extend). I always ate whole wheat and multigrain breads and pastas. Before I was a vegetarian, I was allergic to sea foods. I also had to skip some random foods like mushrooms and corn. And no matter how difficult, how painful and socially awkward for a ten year old that experience was, I am very grateful for it today.

I had a clear vision, a very realistic experience of what happened to my body when I ate something it did not like. Throwing up, coughing severely, red burning skin, the reactions where drastic. But unlike a lot of allergic kids that struggle with controlling their desire to eat a cookie, I became much stronger in my understanding of what I could and could not eat. From an early age, I was (just as I am today) that person that did not eat everything at a social gathering or at someone else’s dinner table. I just learned to say NO - I don’t eat that. Period. My friend’s parents, even my own relatives (like my poor grandma) couldn’t really fathom the idea I couldn’t eat certain things and would offer them to me although my parents strictly insisted they don’t feed me.

Without that experience, I might not have turned vegetarian at 16.It wasn’t easy! My mom was veg so I had that example growing up, and I slowly started understanding philosophical reasons behind not killing animals for food, but it still took me a solid year to start reading ingredients and eliminating all meats, fish, eggs.

Fast forward - today I’m consciously working on inviting foods that only nourish my body, instead of eating for my mind and senses. I am still not at an ‘ideal’ place, I am well aware that every sweet treat and second serving is only for my mind, my body does not need it and probably would do better without it.

But when presented with a challenge such as - make a sweet treat based on natural ingredients like fruits, nuts, without soy, grains, etc. I am ready to take it on!


{vegan, raw, GF, soy free, oil-free, added sugar-free}

makes 6-8 decent sized treats

8 medjool dates
3 heaping tbsp raw almond butter (I used maple almond butter)
a handful of walnuts (whatever I had left)
1/4 cup dried apple rings
4-5 cubes of frozen banana (and a piece of frozen pineapple fell it, gave it a nice sour under tone)
pinch salt (I used celtic)
sliced almonds for garnish
1. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend till it forms a nice gooey mass. I used my 3 piece ninja, blending in the smallest container, scraping the sides as I go.
2. Bananas, dates and almond butter are very wet and creamy ingredients, so this mass will come out wet. Here is where sliced almonds come into play! Not only will they make your balls (lol… just can’t stop giggling whenever I use that word) not sticky (giggling even more here), but they will hold on much better than when you use drier ingredients.
3. Pop in the freezer for a few minutes to create texture. Delicious crumbled over smoothies and other creamy sweet treats.



If you try one of my recipes, I would love to see it! Post your photos online and tag them #girlintheraw or #GIRrecipes so I can find them.