Homemade Granola Bars!
Work. It doesn’t go away. If you’re planning a vacation, you have to do more of it, in a shorter period of time, so that you don’t miss any deadlines when you’re gone. When you get back, you have to catch up on all the work you missed while you were away, quickly negating the relaxing vacation you worked so hard for.
Problem is, we’re a culture that puts way more value on hard work than we do on play. We talk about how many jobs we have or how busy we are with work like it’s a badge of honor, like our exhaustion is something to be proud of. We look at people who live to play with disdain, but their easy smiles tell a different story. I’ve lived among them. I’ve been one, albeit a bad one (I always worked at least two jobs), living in Tahoe for years. And I’ve got to tell you there’s a lot of work that goes into a playful life, it’s just tempered with more rewards, more balance.
Fortunately, these days I work in food and wine—a gig that’s inherently geared toward pleasure. But I still have to check myself every now and then, from that impulse to work long hours, to take on too many projects in order to get ahead. Which is why Neal and I are going camping for four days up in the Sierra. Surrounded by the natural pace of things and inhaling fresh mountain air is restorative, balancing, something we should all do more often. Maybe it will even keep me from yelling at the radio for a week or two.
Of course, in preparation for our camping trip I did do a little work. Rather than eating energy bars that cost too much and taste like licking a wet dog slathered in B-vitamins, I made granola bars. One batch is a spicy take on my crunchy granola spiked with black pepper, and the other finished off the delicious Halawy dates I bought a couple of weeks ago at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market, spiked with cardamom and packed with toasted pistachios. The blend of honey and brown sugar sweetness, spices and a tiny dose of flax meal make these snacks tasty, relatively healthy and full of energy. If you’re not going camping any time soon, try them as a mid-day snack instead of a candy bar from the vending machine at your office, or in your kid’s lunch box.
Date and Pistachio Granola Bars
2 ½ c Trader Joe’s Multigrain Hot Cereal
¾ c pistachio nutmeats, toasted
1/3 c chopped, pitted fresh dates
¼ tsp fresh cardamom
1 tbsp flax meal
¼ c clover honey
¼ c brown sugar
2 tbsp butter, divided
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Pour multigrain cereal onto a baking sheet and top with tablespoon of butter. Toast cereal for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally for even browning. Remove and pour into a large bowl. Toast pistachio nutmeats for about 7 minutes or until lightly browned.
When the nuts are toasted, add those to the bowl with the multigrain cereal, chopped dates, ground cardamom and flax meal and stir together.
In a small saucepan heat honey, a tablespoon of butter and brown sugar over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar melts completely.
Pour the sugar mixture over the grain and nut mixture, stirring to coat completely. Pour granola bar batter into a greased baking dish and let cool. Use a larger baking dish for thinner, crunchier granola bars, a smaller one for thicker, chewier ones.
To make the black pepper spiked granola bars, use 2 cups of Trader Joe’s Anti OXidant Nut and Berry Mix and 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper instead of the cardamom, dates and pistachios above.