The Snack Parade Continues! Date and Puffed Rice Balls (With a Nut Free Option)

by Gena on April 18, 2012

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Last week, I posted a bunch of ideas for quick, easy vegan snacks, as well as some thoughts on the importance of consistent snacking for busy schedules. Most of you seemed to love the post, though it was rightly pointed out that a) a lot of the recipes contain nuts, which means they’re off limits for those with nut allergies, and b) most of the recipes derive their primary energy value from fat. For those of you who are following lower fat diets under the care of a physician or health provider, recipes rich in nuts and seeds and/or nut butters may not be optimal.

So I’ve been trying, for the last week or so, to think of a quick and easy snack option that is sweet, portable, and tasty, but also easy to make nut-free and lower fat. I think I’ve got it.

The star of this dish is puffed rice, which you can purchase from numerous suppliers. My brand of choice is Arrowhead Mills:

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If you’re a gluten free eater making this recipe, please check to be sure that Arrowhead Mills’ puffed rice (or any brand you’re considering) is certified gluten free! I’m not entirely sure myself about Arrowhead Mills’ gluten policy, but I’m sure it’s easy enough to find out (or Valerie, who is a fount of knowledge about all things GF, probably knows the answer).

Basically, this recipe follows the typical template for any nut and date snack: equal parts dates to nuts, except in this case we’re using the puffed rice instead. I ultimately used 1 cup dates and 1 1/4 cups puffed rice, along with a tablespoon of date paste for extra binding and a tablespoon of peanut butter. The balls will hold together without the nut butter, so you really can make this recipe 100% nut free if you wish; you can also use a seed butter if you can tolerate seeds. Sunflower seed butter would be amazing here.

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Date and Puffed Rice Balls (vegan, gluten free with certified puffed rice, soy free)

Makes 10 Balls

1 heaping cup pitted dates
1 1/4 cups puffed rice
1 tbsp date paste or agave syrup
1 tbsp peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter (or simply omit)

Optional add ins:

2 tbsp chia seeds or hemp seeds
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp cacao nibs

Blend all ingredients in a food processor on high. Roll into balls, pack, and eat on the go!

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This snack is on the sweeter side, but in spite of the fact that I’m generally mindful of sugar in my diet, I also believe that sugar is our first and most immediate source of energy, and that dates and fruit are helpful foods to eat before exercise and on the go. These balls also make pretty tasty little dessert bites, if I do say so myself!

Hope this recipe is helpful for my nut allergy readers, and anyone who’s tired of the nut/date formula in raw snackage. I enjoyed the crunch and lighter texture myself!

Till tomorrow, when I’ll have a new tartine/sandwich recipe to share…

xo

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Ela April 18, 2012 at 8:17 pm

A great idea! I’m curious how the puffed rice holds its “puff” in the food processor. I’d been thinking about how to make lower fat treats also–I’ve used dehydrated carrot (I posted a recipe a little while back) but honestly the texture isn’t that great. (GF) Oats, quinoa flakes seem like they’d be options too.
love
Ela

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Kathleen April 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Speaking of lower fat snacks, I was in Lifethyme today and saw Chickpea Kale Chips – same recipe except the nuts/seeds were swapped for chickpeas. I haven’t tried them yet but am intrigued.

Love all your snack ideas – high and low fat.

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Victoria (District Chocoholic) April 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

If you added cocoa powder to the date paste, it would basically be like a kit kat bar.

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Lyza April 19, 2012 at 9:04 am

That sounds AWESOME.

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Kait April 19, 2012 at 9:23 pm

What Lyza said!

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats May 19, 2012 at 7:11 am

Victoria – that is brilliant.

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jenny April 18, 2012 at 9:12 pm

^ I am so trying this after reading this comment

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sarah April 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Thank you for morphing a healthy snack for those of us that can’t enjoy nuts and extra fat in our diets. I always love the idea of the healthy snacks you post but can’t always make them because my body just can’t digest some of those ingredients, even though they are healthy. I wonder, does the rice puff stay crispy or do they kind of soften over time?
Thanks for all your hard work!

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Hannah April 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm

These look adorable! Do you think you could put protein powder in them (i.e. vanilla or chocolate) to up the protein a bit? Maybe you’d have to change the wet/dry ratio…?

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats May 19, 2012 at 7:12 am

I mentioned this below in my comments on GF crispy rice, but puffed quinoa could be an option.

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Clare April 18, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Love this idea! Might make these when I get home tonight :)

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Averie @ Averie Cooks April 18, 2012 at 10:30 pm

I agree, sunflower seed butter would be amazing in these, but it is in anything :)

Love the nut-free option because I remember when I was much more into the raw/vegan path of life, it was nice to have treats that were nut-free as soooo many nuts just don’t agree with me over time.

They look great!

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Kendall April 19, 2012 at 12:21 am

Im loving all the snack recipes! I made your cooked oatmeal bars and have been bringing them to school all week! They’ve been keeping me fueled for hours! Thank you!! :)

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nadine ominski April 19, 2012 at 4:17 am

omg yum i am sooo making these! delish! xx

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Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama April 19, 2012 at 6:10 am

Love this idea! Thanks for sharing. :)

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the delicate place April 19, 2012 at 8:43 am

think i might give this a try! my first reintroduced grains are going to be rice or fermented buckwheat. i have been eating paleo for several years now and after being diagnosed celiac i just avoided all grains. it’s so weird that i never dropped weight while on the birth control pill but now that i’ve stopped it’s like my body is letting go of fat stores and fast. i’ve got to put a hold on it so i will begin to slowly bring non-gluten grains back in. you’ve got a good list of recipes here for me and i’ve always liked everything i’ve made in the past! thanks for the freebies!

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Gena April 19, 2012 at 8:59 am

Hey Melissa!

Thanks for updating me. My guess is that your estrogen is low right now because you went off of the pill and because you may have lost some weight in tandem; I doubt that you were “holding” anything. But prolonged low estrogen and amenorrhea are bad news for your bones, so I’m glad that you’re taking steps to keep your weight steady and eat a balanced, nourishing diet.

I’m very sensitive to food allergy needs among my readers, but I am a HUGE fan of whole grains and their nutrient powers, so definitely keep up with the GF ones. I have a serious history of IBS and never needed to ferment them, so you may find that the same is true for you. Flax and evening primrose oil may also help. And of course, keep your physician posted on all of this! :)

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Molly April 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Hi Gena,

If at all possible, I would really like to hear your thoughts on bone health after an eating disorder. As a former sufferer and vegan, I would really like to take proactive steps to restore my health in this area. Thank you for the consideration!

Molly

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Lyza April 19, 2012 at 9:03 am

This is WONDERFUL!!! I am so excited!!!! Thankyou SOOOO much. What a perfect solution!!!

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Laura C April 19, 2012 at 10:29 am

Yum! I’ve been enjoying puffed millet in energy balls- same puffy mild taste, but perhaps more nutrient dense?

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kate April 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

Hi Gena
So impressed that you continue to blog while on your hectic schedule.
We can’t get puffed grains out here in the boonies, so I am thinking that buckwheaties would be the solution. I am also wondering how walnut butter would taste as the nut butter component of this recipe. I am completely obsessed by the stuff!
Happy snacking!
Kate

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Chris R. April 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

I just found your blog. I love it and all the wonderful recipes! What would you suggest as a substitute for dates for those of us that don’t like them? Would raisins work?

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Caitlyn April 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I’ve tried raisins in place of dates before, Chris, and they’ve worked pretty well for me! I bet dried prunes would work as well…just make sure you don’t need to go on a hot date or out somewhere where a bit of flatulence is frowned upon :)

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Skye April 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Hooray! From a nut allergy sufferer, thank you SO much for a delicious-looking nut-free snack!

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Andrea April 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Sigh. I just got a bag of gluten-free oats so I could make the no-bake snack bars, and now you’re tempting me with yet another appealing snack! :) Maybe I’ll give up veggies for a while and just eat snacks! (just kidding.)

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Alexia @ NamasteYoga April 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I find puffed rice tastes like nothing so would not be my preference to use it. BUT i have puffed amaranth and quinoa at home and will give it a try with that! I usually mix it with some raw granola and top my smoothies with it! so delicious!

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Ami April 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

You are on fire with these snack recipes! Loved the bars last week- I have them every morning! I’ll have to try out these this weekend. Thanks :)

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CourtStar April 19, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Wow these look delicious! I can’t wait to run to the store and pick up these ingredients! How many should I eat at a time?

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Marissa April 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Always love hearing new ideas for quick and easy snacks! Ironically, one of the points touched on in this article (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/16/the-challenge-of-going-vegan/) is that vegan food is neither quick nor easy. More confirmation that it is is always appreciated!

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Rachel April 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm

How funny…I had a bag of puffed rice sitting in my cupboard for the longest time! Definitely making these tonight. Thanks Gena :)

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Kathy Patalsky April 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I oh so love the simplicity of this recipe. Pretty balls-in-bowl photo too Gena!

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Anastasia@healthymamainfo.com April 20, 2012 at 2:46 am

I’ve been looking for a good snack recipe. Puffed rice is high in iron and easy to digest, perfect snack idea!

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kari April 22, 2012 at 10:18 am

This look great and will be good post workout! Thanks..

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Emily April 23, 2012 at 5:39 am

Yum! I made these with puffed millet, put instead of making balls I flattened them on a pan, and layered them with raw almond butter, banana slices, and a chia seed pudding topping. After freezing over night, they made the best breakfast bars- quick and easy during exams :).

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Anastasia@healthymamainfo.com April 25, 2012 at 12:52 am

Such a creative use of puffed rice! Excellent recipe!

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Beverly April 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I used currents instead of dates and added a half banana. I put in a small dessert bowl and it’s quick, easy and perfect afternoon snack to start the weekend out! Whoo hoo!

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portia o. (@runportiarun) April 28, 2012 at 8:16 am

Just made these with 2T almond butter, 2T brown rice syrup, 2T cacao nibs. Wow! I’d love to use them in my marathon next weekend but I’m afraid they’ll melt. I bet they’ll be great as recovery food though!

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Johanna May 4, 2012 at 7:11 am

These are spectacular. I’ve made other date balls in the past and liked them but I LOVE these. Thanks for sharing the awesome snacks.

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Outdoorgrrl May 9, 2012 at 10:02 am

I made these this morning. The mixture didn’t come together to form balls, so I had to add an extra tbsp of almond butter and a couple tablespoons of water. A quick taste tells me they are way sweeter than I anticipated. I’m looking forward to trying them out on my hike this afternoon!

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Nathalie May 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

I made these tonight with the recommended add-ins of cacao nibs and hemp seeds and they turned out great! To those of you saying they didn’t come together, I found that I had to process them for longer than expected to get a sticky enough consistency. I think it’s just a matter of breaking down the dates enough so that it all sticks :)

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats May 19, 2012 at 7:10 am

Thank you for the fount of knowledge compliment. I may be a fount, but I am definitely behind on sharing the knowledge – I would recommend Erewhorn GF Brown rice cereal for this – they are GFCo certified, which is the gold standard in GF products, and last I checked Arrowhead Mills makes all its puffed cereals in one facility (ie puffed kamut is made where the puffed rice is). They may be changing that, but I still would not risk it.

Another option is using broken-up brown rice cakes – I would recommend Lundberg’s just because, while not GFCo certified, their products are made in a GF facilities. Also, because rice cakes are kind of a unique shape, even a non-super-GF-conscious brand may actually not be a terrible choice in a pinch – i.e. there’s not many other products that can be made on rice cake production lines, though of course there is then the issue of what else is made in the facility.

Finally, nuts.com has unsweetened quinoa puffs (which is awesome) – it has seven grams of protein for just under 2 oz, which is a nice way to boost protein. I have not yet tried the recipe using it but I think it would work.

Sorry this is so late…

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Kathryn September 29, 2012 at 1:52 am

I love GINGER in my date balls! Can you list the calories in your recipes? Thanks so much! <3

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Kathryn September 29, 2012 at 1:53 am

Oh, and cranberries! :)

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Gena September 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

Kathryn,

I don’t list calories because I try to encourage my readers to look beyond calorie counting, and simply assess the quality and nourishment of the foods before them. Sorry! I think counting is a good tool for serious weight loss, but it’s not right for my audience of readers.

G

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