29 Nov Cacao bliss balls: a healthy Christmas treat that can be made ahead
Christmas is a time of giving and sharing, but sometimes it can be difficult to find the perfect gift for that special someone. We’ve all been there before: you’re at the shops with your partner, trying to find a Christmas present for their boss who has everything. This year I’m going to make cacao bliss balls as an alternative small Christmas gift. They are healthy (packed with vitamins and minerals), delicious (a rich chocolate flavour) and easy (just combine all ingredients in a food processor). And best of all – they can be made ahead because we’ll store them in the fridge or freezer until we’re ready to give them away. Your friends and colleagues will love these sweet little cacao date balls! Read on for an easy cacao balls recipe.
I really love the festive atmosphere of Christmas time. In Australia, it is getting warmer, and so the world is opening up with picnics and boating and cocktails on balmy evenings. The thing that I love most though, is the food, and the cooking and the giving. It makes the world feel so festive and fun.
And this year, I am planning to give a different kind of gift (or part of a gift) to friends and colleagues and neighbours. It is a cacao balls recipe, that I have experimented with until it is just perfect. And the taste and nutrition is absolute bliss! Just like the name of this recipe!
History of cacao bliss balls
What is the history of cacao bliss balls? Cacao has been used for centuries in South America, but it was the Mayans who made cacao into a chocolate drink. They would make this by mixing ground cacao seeds with water and other spices to create an exquisite beverage that they believed had many magical powers. It became so popular during the 16th century throughout Europe (especially Spain) that it became known as chocolate.
Nutritional value of cacao
There are many health benefits of cacao, including its high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants help the body fight free radicals that cause aging and damage to healthy cells. In addition, cacao is rich in minerals such as magnesium and iron which keep bones strong and reduce fatigue from a lack of oxygen in red blood cells. And one serving provides more than half of your daily requirement for magnesium and iron.
Nutritional value of Medjool dates
Dates are rich in many essential nutrients including potassium, magnesium and fibre. Potassium helps reduce the risk of stroke because it regulates blood pressure while maintaining heart health. Magnesium contributes to lower stress levels, boosts your metabolism by converting food into energy, reduces depression symptoms and assists with nerve signalling which improves brain function. They are perfect for this cacao date balls recipe because they provide a ‘stickiness’ that helps bind the ingredients together.
Nutritional value of nuts (like walnuts and pistachios)
There are so many wonderful health benefits of nuts, including a high concentration of vitamins and minerals. Nuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease by preventing cholesterol from building up in your blood vessels. In addition to being rich in omega-three fatty acids which have been shown to support cognitive functions, nuts are high in protein and low in carbohydrates which helps keep blood sugar levels steady.
Nutritional value of oats
Oats have a lower GI index than other grains such as wheat because they contain beta-glucan soluble fibre that slows down your body’s breakdown of starch into simple sugars. This has been linked to heart health because it helps reduce LDL cholesterol in the blood. Oats also contain an amino acid called L-arginine. This is important for maintaining healthy blood vessels.
Nutritional value of chia seeds
Chia seeds are a great source of fibre and omega-three fatty acids which reduce inflammation. In addition, they contain calcium, magnesium and phosphorous for improved bone health. As well as zinc to support the immune system’s ability to fight infections.
Nutritional value of coconut
Coconut is a treasure trove of minerals including potassium, magnesium, manganese and iron. Potassium helps reduce the risk of stroke by lowering blood pressure while maintaining heart health. Magnesium contributes to lower stress levels, boosts your metabolism by converting food into energy, reduces depression symptoms and assists with nerve signalling which improves brain function.
How cacao bliss balls can be made ahead
Once you have made these cacao date balls, you can pop them in the refrigerator and they will last for two to three weeks. Alternatively, you can put them in the freezer for up to two months. You can actually eat them straight out of the freezer – they shouldn’t be too hard at all. Or you could put them in the fridge to defrost for a few hours – they won’t take long.
Ingredients in the cacao balls recipe
- Nuts – I used walnuts and pistachio nuts, which were tasty, but you could use any nuts or seeds you have on hand – almonds and macadamia nuts would be nice, as would pepitas or sunflower seeds (especially if you are allergic to nuts)
- Cacao – I used unsweetened cacao powder, but you could also use cocoa (which is slightly more refined)
- Dates or other sticky dried fruit – I used dates, but you could also use dried figs or other sticky dried fruit
- Oats – to be honest, the reason why I used oats was to increase bulk without increasing calories – as a lot of the ingredients on the list are quite calorie-dense – you could skip them or use almond meal instead if you have that on hand.
- Coconut – desiccated or shredded coconut works well here. Desiccated coconut is best to coat the balls
- Chia seeds – black or white chia seeds are fine, it is a good idea to soak them in a few tablespoons of water for a little while before using them to soften them
- Orange juice – juice from a freshly squeezed orange adds a nice orange flavour to your balls as well as some wetness for mixing – you could even grate the zest of the orange to make the orange flavour really ping!
Cacao bliss balls: a healthy Christmas treat that can be made ahead
- ½ cups pistachios
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 cup medjool dates
- ½ cups oats
- ¼ cups orange juice
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 cup shredded or desiccated coconut
- 1/3 cup cacao
- Soak the dates in warm water for about 10 minutes. At the same time soak the chia seeds in 6 tablespoons of water for 10 minutes. When softened, squeeze any excess water out of the dates.
- Add the nuts, oats and coconut to a food processor and process until finely chopped - don't over process - you don't want to make nut butter.
- Add the other ingredients - dates, chia seeds, orange juice, cacao, and process until it all comes together to form a sticky paste (it will take a few minutes to come together)
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and take a teaspoon of mixture and roll into a ball, continue until all the mixture is finished.
- Sprinkle some extra desiccated coconut onto a plate and roll each of the balls in the coconut until covered.
- Pop in the refrigerator and cool for at least an hour, or for best results overnight.
I hope you enjoy these delicious cacao bliss balls. The trick to making them not so much of a calorie hit is to make the balls smaller (use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon), which means that you can eat a few in one sitting and not eat the equivalent of a whole meal!
Wishing you the best of festivities this year!
Did you make this cacao balls recipe? Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #myhealthzest