Chocolate · Snacks · Travel

Happy New Year!

I know, I know…it has been a LOOOONG time since I’ve posted anything here and, to anyone who visited during my extended hiatus, I apologize for my absence.  I got a little wrapped up in school, work, and family stuff.  You know, life.  I’m not a fan of excuses, though, and one of my goals for 2018 is to get back to posting here somewhat regularly.  A lot has happened in the past year, so I’ll start with a really quick catch-up.

Last time I posted, I was struggling with fitting everything in with school, my volunteer work, a part-time job, running, personal life, etc.  I had even deferred the marathon for which I had been training.  I still continue to struggle with a routine given my schedule varies so much from day-to-day, but things are getting better.  School has been going great and I am still very happy with my decision to take the leap and make a career change.  In February, my boyfriend and I moved in together and it has been great seeing each other every day without trekking an hour between our apartments.  In August, my volunteer work in corporate wellness turned into a part-time job as a nutritionist working with teen moms.  It’s so amazing to be getting paid to do something I truly love, and I’ve discovered a new passion for menu planning and recipe development!  After a long break from running, I struggled to get back at it and in October 2017 I ran that marathon I had deferred from 2016.  I wasn’t in as good of shape as I would have liked, so it hurt really badly, but I finished!  All-in-all, it was a pretty good year.  Then, to start the new year, my boyfriend and I finally took the vacation we’ve been talking about for over 2 years.  We kept putting it off because of school, work, and finances, and it was so worth the wait!

We spent 10 glorious days in the Caribbean while Mother Nature was pounding NYC with snow and brutal cold. Well, it wasn’t all glorious, but I’ll get to that in a second. We wanted peace and quiet on this trip so that we could recharge our batteries and have time really connecting with each other, so we decided to go a little off the beaten path. We chose to visit the island of Montserrat, and proceeded to pick dates for the trip and look at flights. We booked flights for January 3 – 13 and went looking for a place to stay.  We found a lovely villa just up the hill from a beach that had amazing views. The only problem is that it would not be available until January 4. In order to get to Montserrat, you have to fly into Antigua and then take either a ferry or a short flight from there. We already had our flights to Antigua for the 3rd, so we decided it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to stay a night in a beautiful place like Antigua. We booked an early morning flight from Antigua to Montserrat on the 4th, so we decided to stay at what we thought was an inexpensive hotel near the airport. Our plan was to have a nice dinner then get to bed early, so we didn’t need luxury accommodations. What could possibly go wrong??

MNI Sunset1
Sunset view from our villa in Montserrat

Well, our lodging in Antigua wasn’t exactly what we expected. It was actually a “guest house”, which is just someone’s home where they rent out a room. Our hostess, though very sweet, was quite the talker! I think our check-in process took about an hour because she kept getting distracted with telling us stories about her knee or foot injuries (making us look at both of them) and her family of circus people. Not a problem. We decided to just make the most of it by going for a walk around the neighborhood to find a place to grab a bite to eat and maybe a tropical cocktail or two. Our hostess physically blocked the doorway on our way out because she wanted to keep talking to us, but after a few minutes we politely navigated our way around her and went on our way…only to learn that the neighborhood wasn’t exactly walkable. There were no sidewalks and cars were zipping past us at a scary pace. After dodging traffic for about 10 minutes, we decided to turn around and stop at the gas station for bottled water and snacks and go back to hole up in our room for the night. We were exhausted from travel and the drastic change in weather anyway, so it seemed like a good plan.  Well, over 12 hours in a tiny bedroom is a really long time! Thankfully, I had made snacks for the trip, including my Chocolate Chip Snack Balls, which served as our dinner that night. After that, we were a bit worried about what the rest of the trip would be like, but luckily the next leg of the trip was amazing. The lesson I learned from this adventure, though, is to always travel with plenty of good snacks!

Now, if you’ve read this far, you deserve a cookie…or a ball that tastes like a cookie! One of the big food trends these days is snack balls, AKA “protein balls” or “fat balls”. I’ve seen a few that looked good, but I thought I could make them better, so I decided to give it a go. After a little trial and error, I came up with these yummy little chocolate morsels. With almond flour, oats, chia seeds, and Greek yogurt, these balls are nutritious AND delicious. They make a great pre- or post-workout snack, and I’ve even been known to eat them for breakfast.  Here’s to a great 2018 and eating more balls!

BrownBalls
I did not put the coconut in the food processor, so you can see the chunks here. Mmm!

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Snack Balls

Makes about 24 golf ball sized bites.  Each bite contains 66.4 cal, 1.8g protein, 3g fat, 5.5g sugar, 1.4g fiber, 19mg sodium.

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
2/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or your preferred dried fruit)
1 cup dry oats
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup almond flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips

Put cranberries, coconut, and oats in a food processor and chop until finely chopped (if you like chunks of coconut, leave out of processor).  Mix all ingredients together thoroughly, forming a thick dough, and roll into balls about the size of a golf ball.  Chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.