Jeffrey Steingarten is a great food writer. He’s the kind of food writer you love and hate because he’s that good. He has been the long time food critic and columnist at Vogue magazine (like, since before I was born, people!) and has written hilarious books, like The Man Who Ate Everything. In this particular book, he writes in an essay about the first food piece he ever wrote, a column called Fish Without Fire, where he shares his adventures in cooking fish in the microwave.
My recipe today is for five-ingredient protein balls. What the hell does that have to do with a fantastic food writer’s essay about microwave cookery? NOTHING. That being being said, Steingarten details in that piece how he came to cook fish in the microwave- a woman tried to convince him that his cooking habits were “hopelessly out of date”, and that others around him were doing “oceans and oceans” of microwaved fish. She attempted to sway him-
“It’s light, it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s…” she searched for the perfect word, “…it’s fish!”
While today I’m not talking about fish and this recipe requires no source of heat whatsoever, I’d like to echo Jeffrey’s words- except can I call him Jeffrey? Probably not, definitely not on a first name basis, so let’s go with Mr. Steingarten- and say the same of these protein balls-
They’re light, they’re quick, they’re easy, and…they’re protein balls!
These protein balls have earned this prestigious and poetic title for many reasons. First, you can’t beat the five-ingredient line up: peanut butter, old fashioned oats, flax seeds, cacao nibs, and honey. End of list!
The flax is full of lignans (phytochemicals that have been shown to be beneficial to overall health), fiber (helps you feel fuller longer and helps you, you know, be regular), and omega-3 fatty acids (healthy fats! glow-y skin! etc etc!).
And cacao nibs, oh man, my new favorite ingredient. They are cacao beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted and chopped into pieces (thanks Serious Eats for the education!). Think: pre-chocolate candy bar. They have that familiar chocolate flavor but without the added sugar. The texture is a little addictive, like a nut, and almost has this cooling feeling in your mouth when you chomp on them. I found mine in the bulk section of my local grocery store and they are totally affordable. If you want more of a sweet chocolate taste however, you can substitute mini chocolate chips OR I even saw dark chocolate-covered cacao nibs at the store- basically, pre-chocolate pieces covered in present-chocolate goop. Can’t go wrong there.
They taste best cold and come together so fast. Take them in the car, take them to work, take them on a picnic, sneak them into the movie theatre, take them to the gym, enjoy them while you cook other things- like microwaved fish. Because these protein balls- they’re light, they’re quick, they’re easy, and…they’re protein balls!
- ⅔ cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup old fashioned oats, plus extra for rolling
- 1½ tablespoons honey
- ¼ cup cacao nibs, plus extra for rolling
- ¼ cup flax seeds (optional, but so good!)
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well-combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Once cold, roll "dough" into approximately 1 inch balls. (To better encourage rolling and to avoid sticky hands, you can lightly coat your hands in a layer of butter or oil).
- Lay out a thin layer of oats and cacao nibs on a plate or work surface and roll the balls in the mixture. Finish off by rolling each ball between your hands to pack in the oats and cacao nibs.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to be eaten. Sticking them in the freezer makes for a nice, colder treat as well!