Let’s just begin by acknowledging that I will do my best to stifle my inner 12 year old boy humor while writing this post about balls. I will refrain from titling this post Blue Balls. Even I have standards. Apologies for any inappropriate sophomoric ball jokes that slip into this post. Ahh jeez, all of this talk of balls has impregnated my mind with this classic tune from Arrested Development. I really miss that show. Anyhow…
My best friend came to visit a few weeks back and I made plans to take her to one of my favorite spots in California, Big Sur. Back in Portland, she and I spent a lot of time sweating our balls off together from hot yoga, to waterfront runs, day hikes and even an aerial yoga class that left me with a mysterious, 2 week long bout of vertigo (I don’t want to talk about it). So, a day of going balls to the wall through Big Sur was right up our alley.
Of course I wanted to make something special for her visit, but cookies and cakes seemed counterintuitive to our day of outdoorsy-ness. The perfect fuel for a girls day of hiking? Balls, naturally. Before Bridget arrived, I went balls-deep in the kitchen and mixed up a big ol’ batch of healthy hiking nibbles. To my surprise, they were way better than I had expected, possibly the best balls I’ve ever tasted. They are wholesome, gluten free and nearly (honey) vegan to boot! These super balls are action packed with energy boosting almonds, antioxidant infused blueberries, and heart healthy flax seeds, making them a nutritious and satisfying trail snack.
We started our journey with a drive down to Monterey, CA on Saturday afternoon. I dropped the ball in the planning department and we ended up staying in an overpriced and crappy hotel. Still sorry about that, Bridget. Then we wasted an evening wandering around the painfully played out Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. As we walked the wharf at sunset, we felt like we’d been dropped into some alternate universe set in the early 80s. We saw a lot of inexplicably strange people and happenings but we somehow loved every minute of it! That’s the thing about best friends, you always have a ball no matter what. I still can’t get over the display meals and free samples of chowder doled out by outdated restaurants scattered down the boardwalk. The worn walkway speckled with milky stains of spilled chowder and crushed paper cups was quite possibly the least appetizing way to push chowder sales, IMHO. We forewent the chowder in favor of mediocre Italian and a shitty glass of wine and followed that up with a drink at a local bar before heading back to the hotel in hopes the next day would be an improvement.
We started our day with an early and sleepy stroll through Carmel. We had a lovely breakfast at a charming little French Cafe called La Bicyclette. The food took forever to arrive, but it was fabulous once we finally got our hands on it. I highly recommend this spot if you have the time and you’re in good company. After brunch, we stepped out into a sea of tourists who had completely flooded the sidewalk during our leisurely meal. We grabbed some roadies (iced teas) and headed down the windy 1 in search of nature and sunshine.
My lack of planning put another kink in our trip as we ran into the infamous traffic that occurs across the US during Memorial weekend. But, we cranked some good tunes, popped some balls and enjoyed the view. When we finally arrived at the trail head, it was packed with families and tourists…ugh. However, the trail we chose was a more challenging climb and most of the less prepared folks dropped off pretty quickly.
The thing I enjoy most about hiking in Big Sur is the variety of the landscape. There is a little bit of everything; redwood groves, crystal clear streams, open prairies and dramatic coastal and mountain views all along a single trail.
We had an incredible hike and crushed another round of balls at the crest of the trail while basking in the warm glow of the California sunshine and taking in the sweeping beach views. I gotta say, the balls tasted significantly better after a 1600′ climb through such a scenic and pristine setting.
After a perfect afternoon of hiking, we got back in the car and drove the 3 hours home, laughing, singing and balling all the way. Hitting the open road with your bestie is one of the grandest adventures in life, it’s important to make time for these things. Best friends and a good set of balls are a gift to be treasured, always.
- almond butter - 1 cup
- honey (agave nectar or Lyle's Golden Syrup would be suitable substitutes for a vegan recipe) - 3/4 cup
- gluten free rolled oats (or non GF if you prefer) - 1 cup
- dried blueberries - 1/2 cup
- unsweetened coconut flakes - 1/2 cup
- sliced almonds - 1/2 cup
- flax seeds - 1/4 cup
- almond meal - 1/2 cup
- ground cinnamon - 2 teaspoons
- vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla extract) - 1 teaspoon
- salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Spread coconut flake and rolled oats on 2 separate baking sheets. Sprinkle the oats with salt. Bake the coconut for 8-10 minutes until it starts to turn a warm golden brown. Bake the oats for 10 minutes.
- Set aside and allow to cool.
- Thoroughly blend the almond butter, honey and vanilla bean paste together in a large bowl.
- Add the rolled oats, coconut flakes, flax seeds, almonds and blueberries. Mix together until the mix begins to resemble a semi-sticky cookie dough.
- In a separate smaller bowl, mix together the almond meal and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Using a cookie scoop, form the mix 1-1.5" balls.
- Roll each ball in the almond meal and cinnamon and set aside on a lined cookie sheet. Chill the balls for at least an hour, this will help them set and hold their form.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature. They taste best from the top of a mountain, FYI.