Discover the beauty of Big Sur through the eyes of Lee from America, as she shares four easy recipes perfect for your next camping trip!
This post comes to us from Lee Tilghman of Lee from America.
Last month, I left my Echo Park abode for a camping trip in the most magical place on earth: Big Sur. Roaring shores, turquoise waterfalls and wild native herbs that grow along the California coast make Big Sur your new greatest love affair.
My favorite way to experience Big Sur’s serene beauty is via camping. This way, I’m sleeping among the pristine beaches and hundreds of miles of rivers, trails, gorges and mountains. There’s something about being in the center of nature that makes me feel at one with the earth and my surroundings.
Eating homemade, plant based foods is another integral way for me to stay and feel connected. As a girl who’s seriously devoted to her love of all things plant based and delicious, I knew I wanted to procure energy dense food that looked good and tasted even better. I brought along chickpeas and lentils, coconut cream, nuts, and breakfast fixings galore like buckwheat groats, oats, chia seeds and peanut butter. Did I mention peanut butter? I brought lots of peanut butter. I’m peanut butter’s most devoted fan. You know how Justin Bieber has “Beliebers”? I’m a belieber in peanut butter.
Echo Park: Almond Butter Bliss Balls
I stopped by the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market before my trip to stock up on organic, fresh, seasonal produce. I stored all of my produce in a cooler with block ice to keep it fresh — carrots, kale, apples, bananas, oranges, pomegranates, berries, sweet potatoes and onions. Most of these are pretty hearty and can withstand a camping trip.
Erin Sullivan of Erin Outdoors drove out from Boulder to accompany me on my travels. A good friend from my home state of Connecticut, Erin leads outdoor trips for a living and is a camping encyclopedia. Erin brought along a 2-burner Coleman stove for us to cook with at our campsites.
Before heading out, I made a batch of my Nuts and Seeds Granola Bars and Almond Butter Bliss Balls. I always bring my own food whenever I travel; I find it’s more cost effective, time effective, and not to mention much healthier. Because I can control the amount of ingredients I use, it comes out just the way I like, without all the unnecessary stuff.
Almond Butter Bliss Balls Recipe
Makes 8-10 balls, depending on size
Time: 10 minutes
2 cups pitted Medjool dates
1/3 cup oats
1/3 cup coconut shreds
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup almond butter
2 tbsp raw cacao nibs
1. Place dates, oats, coconut shreds and almond butter in a food processor or high speed blender, such as a Vitamix.
2. Blend until a dough-like consistency is reached.
3. Pour cacao nibs on a plate. Roll dough into bite sized balls. Roll through cacao nibs.
4. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate.
Ojai: Banana Whipped Oatmeal
We left Echo Park at sunset and drove into the a blazing orange sky, the kind of sunset that takes your breath away (and you finally see why there are so many songs about the California sunsets). We arrived in Ojai before midnight, where we set up camp about 30 miles up the 33 from downtown.
We awoke early our first morning. As the cold misty fog settled into our site, we laid out our yoga mats and we moved through some vinyasa flows together to warm up our bodies. It was so cold that we couldn’t feel our toes; I knew oatmeal was the only way to warm up our bones. I threw together some Banana Whipped Oatmeal and topped it with chia seeds, honey peanut butter, strawberry compote, cashews, blackberries, homemade granola, pomegranate seeds, trail mix, coconut and buckwheat. This kept us satisfied for the 6-hour drive to Prewitt Ridge.
Banana Whipped Oatmeal
makes 6 cups
time: 20 minutes
5 cups oats
2 cups almond milk
1 cup boiling water
2 very ripe bananas
Toppings: chia seeds, peanut butter, strawberry compote (recipe below), granola, pomegranate seeds, nuts, trail mix, shredded coconut, buckwheat groats, cacao nibs
1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add oats to boiled water. Pour in almond milk and stir gently.
2. Let cook for 3 minutes over medium heat or until oats are cooked ‘al dente’. Cover.
3. Mash your bananas in a separate, clean bowl. Add mashed bananas to the oat pot and stir quickly, folding in air to give them a whipped effect. Set aside.
Strawberry Compote: In a separate pan, mix 1 cup sliced strawberries and 2 tbsp honey over high heat. Let cook for 6 minutes until a syrup-y texture is achieved.
Add your toppings to the bowl and enjoy!
We couldn’t finish the whole pot, so we packed our leftovers in mason jars and they made for a great mid-afternoon snack. Oatmeal is kind of like pizza — it tastes just as good cold as it does warm.
Prewitt Ridge: Bear Toast
We woke up in Prewitt Ridge to a breathtaking sunrise. At 3,700 feet up, we could see the entire Pacific Ocean, taking in all its vastness as we sipped vanilla-flavored pour over coffee and chatted about the previous night’s dreams.
One of my favorite healthy, quick breakfasts is toast. I love its versatility and simplicity. My go-to combo is multigrain with peanut butter, blackberries, bee pollen and hemp seeds. The crunchiness of the seeded bread paired with the buttery peanuts go so well with the tart blackberries. I love the bee pollen as a visually appealing alternative to honey. It’s a lot less sticky and way easier for clean up — which is really important to keep in mind when camping.
As I was preparing the toast, Erin observed, “Lee, that toast contains all of a bear’s favorite ingredients. It’s Bear Toast.” And that’s how the toast got its name.
Makes 4 pieces of toast
Time: 10 minutes
4 pieces seeded bread (the seedier, the better!)
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup blackberries
2 tbsp honey
Optional: toppings such as bee pollen, hemp seed, cacao nibs
1. Lay bread face down on a pan over high heat.
2. Let bread toast until golden brown, then flip to the other side.
3. Remove toast from pan.
4. Spread peanut butter, then add blackberries and honey. Voila!
Big Sur: Sweet Potato Oatmeal Parfaits
On the final morning of our trip, we worked through 1 1/2 hours of vinyasa yoga. Surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest, it was impossible to not be moved by the boundless beauty of its redwoods. As we played around in headstand, the sun crept in through the branches and showered us in glorious autumnal light.
When camping, the early mornings slowly melt into afternoon, and all sense of time disappears. I couldn’t think of a better way to soak in the misty magic morning than with build-your-own parfaits. I set out a large picnic table spread with toppings like chocolate chips, coconut yogurt, bliss balls, pumpkin seeds, bee pollen, bananas, homemade granola, and blackberries for Erin and I to design our own sweet potato oatmeal with coconut milk and chia seeds. These were such a delicious treat — we talked about them almost the entire trip home.
Sweet Potato Oatmeal Parfaits
1 cup coconut yogurt (or any non-dairy yogurt of your choice)
2 cups oats
3/4 cup white chia seeds (I use Salba Chia)
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 medium sized sweet potatoes
1 cup granola
1/2 cup berries of your choice (apples would also make a good substitute here if you do not have access to berries)
toppings: chia seeds, peanut butter, bliss balls, trail mix, shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds
1. Place your sweet potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with water, with at least 3” water on top. Bring water to a boil. Drain water, and let the potatoes cool off for 4 minutes.
2. Peel your sweet potatoes, mash with a fork and set aside.
3. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add oats and chia seeds, and stir.
4. Once the water is boiling, bring to medium-low heat, add the mashed sweet potatoes, stir well until well mixed, and let cook another 3-5 minutes under low heat.
5. While the oats are cooking, set up your parfait station. I like to put my toppings on a picnic table or flat surface for easy parfait-making. Place the yogurt, bananas, berries, coconut shreds, pomegranate seeds, chia seeds, granola, chopped bliss balls and trail mix in small bowls or jars for you and your friends to build their own jars.
6. Remove sweet potato oat mixture from heat. Place one inch of sweet potato oatmeal into the bottom of a mason jar.
7. Add a layer of berries, granola, pomegranate seeds, yogurt, bananas and more oatmeal until you run out of space! Top with cut-up bliss balls, trail mix, coconut shreds and anything else you like!
We wrapped up our trip with a beach day at Julia Pfeiffer State Beach and drove back to LA with full bellies and even fuller hearts. Perpetually inspired by my adventures along the California central coast, I made a promise to surround myself in nature on a regular basis — whether it be a just a quick day trip to Joshua Tree or a quick walk around my local park.
Nature has such a profound impact on our well being, as does the food we put into our bodies. I couldn’t wait to get back to the magic that is Big Sur. Until the next trip…I’ll see you soon.
Signed with love
Photographers: Lee Tilghman and Erin Sullivan. Follow Erin on Instagram