What is wrong with me? After all these years, do I really need to struggle against patience and fill with regret like I’m a bucket under a leaky ceiling and it’s a flash flood? It’s so much better these days, it is. Capable, older children; more and deeper rest; easier daily rhythms. But, oh, a day that starts with a flash of unkindness—like lightning that illuminates the gentle face of misplaced trust—that is not a good day.
If you are on your way out the door, on a Monday school morning, and someone asks you to hold up a granola bar so that she can photograph it, and this is a favor to that person, that person who made the granola bar and is therefore responsible for its crumbling, and that granola bar breaks in half and falls to the floor, should sharp words be flung at you like knives outlining your sleepy baffledness? I said two hands. Also, should there be a sharp addendum about your boots, and why you aren’t wearing them, even though the granola-bar photographer has reminded you at least a dozen times to wear your boots today? Your bright face will fall. And when, ultimately, you end up in her lap, in tears, do you feel like the lamb lying down with the lion, only not in a good way? I don’t know.
I am quick to apologize, and that’s about all I can say for myself today. But I would like to find those hidden pockets of meanness and dynamite them.
Does it make you feel weird about the granola bars? Does it make you wonder, a) Will they cause misery in your own family? and, b) will they fall apart? I don’t believe they’ll make you unhappy, but you should cut the bars in half again, because they’re more stable as squares than oblongs. That’s what I do—and, in fact, if I had shown you the actual bars as I make them, instead of trying to get all Nature’s Valley on you, the whole scene could have been avoided.
These are the granola bars I’m making these days. They’re chewy and sweet and absolutely delicious—but they’ve got enough salt and tartness and crisped-rice to keep them from being ooey-gooey cloying. I’m making them instead of the Raw Energy Bars that I’ve been making for years because this is what Ben is grabbing as he heads out the door, and these just have a little more going on as a daily breakfast. Still, they’ve got a million ingredients, and if that’s annoying to you, you can either skip some of them (the rice cereal, seeds, almond extract, chocolate chips, and citric acid are easy omissions) or make the energy bars instead. Why, of all the moments, did I pick now to buy rice cereal and rice syrup? I really couldn’t say. If I wanted to poison everyone with arsenic, surely there are easier methods.
Chewy Cherry Granola Bars
I am using the good bones of this recipe, but then I am adding dates, crisped-rice cereal, and chia seeds instead of sesame (mostly because I like the way they get stuck in my teeth and then swell up into slippery pearls). Also, I upped the extracts and nixed the cinnamon, because that’s how I roll. And I added chocolate chips, because ditto. Citric acid is something I find handy to keep around because it adds tartness without adding any other flavor or any more liquid; obviously, you could leave it out. I also want to mention that I realize that these are expensive to make. But, they pack a serious nutritional punch--all those whole foods and energy-filled nuts and seeds--and so, to me, they feel like a justifiable expense. Plus, they're still much cheaper than buying the equivalent bars in the store.
1 cup whole almonds
1 cup pecan halves or pieces
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup (+) crisped-brown-rice cereal (I use the Whole Foods brand)
2 tablespoons chia, flax, or sesame seeds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1/8 teaspoon citric acid (optional)
3/4 cup dried cherries (ideally tart ones)
½ cup pitted dates
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup brown rice syrup or honey (spray your measuring cup with oil before measuring anything sticky—that’s a real Heloise’s hint!)
¼ cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Line a 9- by 12-inch baking pan (or a smaller one, for thicker bars) with parchment paper, with enough hanging over the side to cover the bars when they’re in the pan.
Put 1/2 cup each of almonds, pecans, and oats in a food processor (I bet a blender would work fine for this). Process until finely ground, then pour it into a large bowl. Roughly chop the remaining pecans and almonds (I do this in the food processor too), then add them to the bowl. Add the remaining oats along with the crisped-rice cereal, seeds, salt, and citric acid, then mix well.
Put the cherries and dates in the food processor with two tablespoons of the dry mixture, and pulse until they are coarsely chopped (the dry mixture keeps them from clumping together). Add the chocolate chips, pulse a couple more times (this will just barely break up the chips) and dump this mixture into the bowl. Stir very well.
Combine rice syrup or honey with the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture melts and then foams, then cook it for 15 seconds longer. Stir in the extracts, then pour it over the oat mixture and mix thoroughly.
Pour the granola mixture into the prepared pan, and press it very, very firmly with your own oiled hands or with an oiled square of parchment paper. something with a flat bottom (may need to spray it with non-stick spray.) Wrap the overhanging parchment paper up over the bars and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.
Pull the entire block of chilled granola mixture out of the pan, then cut them into bars (and, since they can be a little crumbly, you might want to cut the bars in half again into squares). Either wrap them individually in parchment or plastic wrap, or else store all the bars in a large airtight container. Either way, keep them in the fridge.
|Wake me when you're done assembling the ingredients.|
|But then there's no actual cooking involved, which is kind of nice.|
|Just be sure to press them down hard. Or else the bars will be crumbly. And you'll speak sharply into the pink and open face of your dear person.|