tahini

Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing

blueberry farro salad with creamy fresh herb dressing

Can I just eat this for lunch every day for the rest of the summer please? Okay so maybe I would get tired of it after a week or so but add of side of watermelon and an ice cold beer and this Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing is what summer dreams are made of. 

All About Farro

What exactly is farro?

Farro, which is actually pronounced "FARE-oh" (I just found out I've been saying it wrong for years! anyone else?) is an ancient grain - meaning it has been consumed for thousands of years and has been largely unchanged over time (1). It falls into the same category as some trendier counterparts such as quinoa, millet and sorghum, all of which pack a big nutritional punch and are typically purchased unrefined.

Health Benefits of Whole Wheat

Farro is whole wheat, which means it is not suitable for the gluten-free folks out there. And although I find that wheat gets a bad rap these day, the health benefits are well established and include reduced risk for many chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke (2, 3). The high fiber content is likely responsible for these benefits since as we know, fiber acts like roughage going through the digestive tract pulling in water and waste while keeping things running smoothly. Fiber is also highly satisfying (i.e. hard to overeat) and promotes a healthy gut microbiota in addition to its many other amazing beneficial qualities. 

The Process

Let's Talk About That Dressing

Should I rename this blog, "all things tahini"? Just kidding. Although I'm back with another way to use it in this fabulous dressing recipe. The cool thing is that it's luxurious and creamy but still vegan and dairy free for those of you with dietary restrictions. Balsamic vinaigrette is great and all, but sometimes you just need something creamy, amiright? 

For this particular version, I mixed in copious amounts of fresh herbs for flavor along with some lemon juice for brightness. Something sweet is usually a good thing with tahini, even if just a drizzle so there is a touch of maple syrup to balance out the bitterness. 

Another nice thing is, you can make it ahead of time and use it on just about everything from traditional salads to grain bowls. It should last for about 5-7 days in the fridge. I know the blender is a little bit high maintenance, but trust me when I say you will thank me later! 

The Other STar Ingredients

Pictured below are the core ingredients you need to bring the actual salad together. Now, I love a simple whole grain salad as both a side dish or a light lunch in the summertime heat. My basic no-fail formula is grain + fruit + flavorful cheese + nut + dressing to bring it all together. Beyond that, you can get creative and make it your own based on what you find at the farmer's market or what you need to use up in your fridge at the moment. I also keep color and texture at top of mind. Experiment with different whole grains to find your favorite!

blueberry farro salad ingredients

The specific brand of farro that I purchased (see above) cooked in just 10 minutes. I thought that was pretty awesome because this made for a really fast lunch. While it cooks, you can seed and chop the cucumber (no need to peel). Note: I used a Persian cucumber here. I love them because they are small and less watery than the larger, traditional cucumbers. An English cucumber would also work great. 

Small dice the onion (really small) and then soak it in some cold water to take some of the bite away. This is a simple step that makes a huge difference in the final product!

Pro tip: Use the soak method on any traditionally bitter vegetable when using it raw. You would be surprised how well it works. Beware of using raw onion in salads because you might be risking onion breath for the rest of the day. Just sayin'. 

ingredients chopped up and ready to go in bowl
blueberry farro salad ingredients chopped and in bowl

Once all of your ingredients are ready to go, add them to a medium-size bowl and mix until well combined. At this point you can add the dressing and I would highly recommend chilling if you have the time. When ready to serve, garnish with walnuts (or any other favorite nut or seed) and serve as a side dish or over some mixed greens for a light lunch. 

blueberry farro salad with creamy fresh herb dressing in a bowl

Blueberry Farro Salad with Creamy Fresh Herb Dressing

Author: Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Yield: 4 servings | Prep time: 15 minutes | Total time: 25 minutes

Salad ingredients

  • 1 cup farro

  • 1/4 red onion, small diced

  • 1/2 pint blueberries

  • 1 small Persian cucumber, seeded and diced

  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup tahini

  • Juice from one large lemon

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup chives

  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley

  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • salt and pepper to taste

instructions

  1. Put a medium saucepan of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

  2. While the water is coming to a boil, make the dressing by adding those ingredients (tahini through garlic powder) into a food processor or blender and running until mixed thoroughly. Slowly stream in warm water while the motor is still running until consistency is smooth and creamy (should drip from a spoon). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a jar or other airtight container and put in the refrigerator to chill.

  3. Once water is boiling, cook farro per package directions.

  4. Meanwhile, prep the onion, blueberries and cucumber and add to a large bowl along with the farro.

  5. Add about 1/2 cup of the dressing to the salad (or per preference) and mix well to combine. Top with walnuts just before serving.


Sources:

1. Whole Grains Council. Whole Grains 101 (Wheat). Retrieved from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whats-whole-grain/ancient-grains. 

2. Zong G, Gao A, Hu FB and Sun Q. Whole Grain Intake and Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Circulation. 2016; 133(24):2370-80. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25646321. 

3. Dagfinn A, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2016;353:i2716. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i2716.

Maple Tahini Snack Balls

You guys, I have a simple, sweet and salty snack recipe for you today that is delicious, if I do say so myself. Sometimes I get an idea for a new creation in my head and will not stop thinking about it until I bring it to fruition. These maple tahini snack balls are the perfect example of that. 

It all started several weeks back when I took a poll on Instagram. If you follow me over there, you know that I constantly rave about my love for tahini. I was mentioning some different uses for it and then asked if anyone had tried it in a traditionally sweet recipe. Most people responded "no" so I immediately started thinking of a way I could incorporate into a snack. I decided to try to replicate the ever-so-popular oat ball and use the tahini in place of more traditional nut butters.

Maple Tahini Snack Balls by Leanne Ray Nutrition

All About Tahini

In case you are way confused, tahini is essentially ground sesame seeds (a sesame seed "butter" if you will) that is popping up in sweet and savory recipes all over the place right now. I am thoroughly obsessed with tahini sauce on noodles, grain bowls, and in homemade salad dressings. And while I'm not really a dessert person, my interest is piqued when someone swirls tahini in brownies

See also // Spiced Chickpea and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Sauce

Last week in my ultimate guide to nut butter, I included tahini in the list and mentioned that it's a plant-based source of calcium along with magnesium and iron, all of which are hard to come by nutrients (especially for plant-based eaters). It adds 6 grams of protein and some satiating, heart-healthy fat with each two tablespoon serving as well. So as if there weren't already enough reasons to try it... nutrition!

Unlike some of the other more popular nut butters on the market, tahini is not typically eaten straight from the spoon because it's on the bitter side (I warned you). It does however transform into pure gold when mixed with something sweet and spicy - or in the case of these, sweet and salty. 

ingredients to make maple tahini snack balls

Process

Here's the line-up for what you need to make these happen:

  • Old-fashioned rolled oats + quick oats (if you have them)

  • Ground flaxseed. I love this Manitoba Milling Co brand because it's smooth, almost like a protein powder instead of gritty like the traditional versions (full disclosure: I'm a brand ambassador for MM).

  • Salt

  • Tahini

  • Maple Syrup

  • Vanilla extract

  • Sesame seeds

With energy ball recipes, it's best to use a combination of whole rolled oats and some "quick" oats, but instead of buying two different kinds - especially since I much prefer the rolled oats for breakfasts - I just give half of them a whirl in my food processor until they look like quick oats. This will make your final product more cohesive, as opposed to crumbly. 

dry ingredients and wet ingredients maple tahini balls

Once you are set with your oats, you will simply combine all of the dry ingredients in one bowl, all of the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then mixed them up until the result is a nice "dough" of sorts. This step is always a little awkward because you will think it's impossible to mix together, but use the flat side of a wooden spoon to really work the wet ingredients into the dry. They will come together - trust me!  Once you get everything mixed well, you will want to cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest so the oats can soak up some more moisture and it will be much easier to handle.

maple tahini ball mixture resting

After 20 minutes, portion into one inch balls using a small cookie scoop to make them uniform. This is definitely the most efficient way I have tried and also results in less sticky hands along the way. An optional but fun step is to roll each ball in sesame seeds. I really loved the extra crunch/texture this provided and it also looks really pretty!

dipping maple tahini balls in sesame seeds
maple tahini balls stacked up

The flavor of these is nutty and complex. As much as I love classic peanut butter, I eat it a lot so these were a nice change and the tahini really comes through. Plus they are a breeze to throw together! The recipe scales well too, so feel free to double it like I often do. 

maple tahini balls packed up in storage container

Maple Tahini Snack Balls

Yield: 10 balls | Prep time: 15 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes (mostly hands off)

Note: This recipe has been updated since it's original version. After making these several times, I decided that the dates were unnecessary and added an extra step so I removed them to make it easier and quicker without impacting the final product! 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed

  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup tahini

  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • optional: 3 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Place 1/2 of the oats in a food processor and pulse until it resembles quick oats. Add these to a bowl with the other 1/2 of the oats along with the flaxseed and salt. Mix well.

  2. In a separate smaller bowl, combine the tahini, maple syrup and vanilla.

  3. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix until thoroughly combined. Cover bowl and put in the refrigerator to rest for 20 minutes.

  4. Using a small cookie scoop, portion into one inch balls and roll in sesame seeds.


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