Sunday was such a perfect day for multisporting. Around here, multisporting means three or more sports are pursued in one day. This takes organization, a bag full of clothes and gear, and the right food. It was fortuitous that I had made a big batch of Bacon Sushi Rice Bars and Balls first thing Saturday morning.
These power-packed energy balls made their first appearance last month at the Moose Chase nordic ski race in Jackson; hence the name Moose Balls.
The debut of the warm March sun seduces everyone to drop everything and head outdoors for a full day of activities. Everywhere everyone is frantically skinning uphill, skiing downhill, skate-skiing across sun-crusted meadows, biking slushy roads, and taking those white legs out for the first spring run. From sunup to sundown, no one is willing to squander one precious hour of sunlight, or one balmy breeze.
Rosie and Gunner spent some quality time on top of Edelweiss this weekend basking in the warmish March sun.
A successful multisport day starts with a good breakfast. Since I was already making Bacon and Egg Sushi RIce Bars (and Balls), breakfast was a deconstructed version of the same ingredients: steaming rice, crispy bacon bits, scrambled eggs, soy sauce, brown sugar, and a dappling of black sesame seeds, for a bit of crunch. Rice for breakfast? Oh yeah.
Rice is also the ideal ingredient for a high energy power bar to keep you going all day long. Why rice? Because it's easy to digest while working out, and its high glycemic index makes it the perfect post-workout food as well. And a savory, rice-based power bar is a nice change of pace after a long winter of prepackaged, nut-oat-chocolate bars.
You don't have to put bacon in your sushi bars, but I can't imagine leaving it out.
My multisport day started with an early morning cruise with Nick on the sun-crusted meadows in Grand Teton National Park. In the spring, the combination of warm sunny days and single digit nights creates a crust on snowy meadows that is perfect for skate skiing.
There is a certain freedom that comes with crust cruising...you can ski over fences, you can ski in the bed of a creek, and you can ski fast and far. But you can't ski all day; the spell is broken mid-morning as the sun beats down on the crust and it cracks, causing you to break through.
I am finding it hard to keep up with young Nick, age 11, who is so fast and light on the crust that he never breaks through.
We skied over a buried fence, on the west bank of the Teton Range, just north of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
As the sun warmed up on Sunday, it occurred to me that I should haul out my bike. Early spring bike rides are normally windy, mud-splattered endeavors, and not all that enjoyable. But last Sunday there was barely a breeze, and as the temperatures topped out at 47ºF, a bike ride down Fall Creek Road was not painful at all.
How do you top off a day of skate skiing and the first big spring bike ride? You go alpine skiing, of course. The warm sunny days have transformed our snowpack into a wide spectrum of ski conditions... powder, corn, slush, ice...all in the same day. If you hit it right, usually in the early afternoon, you'll be skiing on corn: soft, easy snow that is fast and forgiving.
Everyone was sporting big smiles at the Jackson Hole Ski Resort last weekend, including me and the Mountain Man.
The start of the Moose Chase, which had a record number of participants this year. Moose Balls are an ideal 2-bite calorie boost during a 30 K nordic race.
The perfect day of multisporting preferably ends with aprés ski, and a chance to swap tales of the day with friends. Someone else's multisport day is always going to be more outrageous than yours around here. Guaranteed.
I made hundreds of Moose Balls for the aid stations at the Moose Chase this year.
I think you'll find it faster and easier to spread the rice mixture out in a pan, then cut and form into bars, than to roll them out into cute little balls.
These rice bars are the invention of Allen Lim, an exercise physiologist, and Biju Thomas, a chef, who teamed up to create real food for the professional cyclists they train. They found that their athletes were bored with their usual prepackaged power bars, and as a result, they weren't getting enough calories. More importantly, they were developing "gut rot" from eating too many dense, sweet bars.
Based on the Chinese rice cake Zong Zi, which are wrapped in bamboo leaves, these savory bars are wrapped in paper foil, and shaped to fit into the athlete's back jersey pocket.
The bars can be easily varied by swapping chicken sausage for the bacon, and adding nut butters, roasted cashews, or raisins. Although designed for elite cyclists, they work equally well for an aging athlete like myself, mountain biking on slushy roads on a gorgeous spring day.
Calrose rice is a good medium grain rice that is sticky enough to form bars and balls. Sushi rice also works well, but can be a lot more expensive.
For a printable version of the recipe, click on the file below it.
Bacon Sushi Rice Bars (or Moose Balls)
This recipe is adapted from The Feed Zone Cookbook, by Biju Thomas and Allen Lim, a must-have whole-foods cookbook for athletes.
Some tips for success:
Do not rinse the rice before cooking; if you do, it won't stick together to form a bar or a ball. Believe me, I've made that mistake (but if you forget, you'll have a nice rice bowl).
The easiest way to prepare the bacon is to take the whole package and chop it without separating the slices first. They will separate in the frying pan. Also, be sure to really blot out all of the grease. You don't want your rice bars to be greasy.
Form the bars or balls while the rice is still warm; it will stick together better.
Make your bars gluten-free by using tamari instead of soy sauce.
One more thing: it is important to choose the right type of rice, as this recipe won't work with many varieties. Calrose is a medium grain rice that is available locally. It is inexpensive, cooks in 20 minutes, and has the sticky quality you'll need. You could use any rice marked "sushi" (which I buy in bulk at Jackson Whole Grocer in Jackson), or the "sweet rice" you'll find in Asian markets.
Yield: about 10 bars, or 2 dozen balls
- 2 cups uncooked Calrose rice, or another "sticky" medium grain rice; do not rinse
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 8 ounces bacon
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons liquid amino acids (like Bragg's) or soy sauce (I use the green labelled low sodium type)
- brown sugar to taste (2-4 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, well rinsed (optional)
- Combine rice and water in a rice cooker, or a medium saucepan, and cook on low until done, about 20 minutes.
- Chop up bacon, then fry in a medium frying pan until brown and crispy. Drain well over paper towels.
- Beat eggs in a small bowl and scramble over medium heat in the same frying pan (after wiping out the excess bacon grease). Stir gently until done.
- In a large bowl, or in the rice cooker bowl, mix the cooked rice with the bacon, eggs, soy sauce and brown sugar. Toss in the sesame seeds.
- Taste. Add more soy sauce or sugar as you see fit.
- To make bars: press into an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan to about 1 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with more brown sugar if you wish. Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and press down and even over the top. Cut into bars or squares while still warm.
- To make balls: squeeze 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture into a concise ball. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to eat.
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I can't explain it, but I just love black sesame seeds. Crunch.