Once More, With Granola

We’re coming up on a long weekend.  Our school system has been generous, giving the children not only President’s Day, but the Friday prior as well.  Four whole days in a row, and we’re taking advantage of it by going on a little road trip.

Most of you probably know that traveling with children can be tricky.  Some kids are great – strap them in a booster seat, give them a book, some crayons and paper, or a movie, and they’re good to go (that’s my oldest).  Some kids, on the other hand, require a little more, shall we say, attention.  They get wiggly, antsy, bored, and, last but not least, impatient.  This can manifest itself in many ways.  In our case, our youngest expresses his displeasure by yelling, throwing toys and kicking the back of the seat in front of him.  Also, he’s not much of a car sleeper, so this behavior can go on indefinitely.  Pleasant.

Sometimes, snacks help.  Actually, most of the time, snacks help.  If he has food, he’s pretty happy.  That’s why I spent most of this morning attempting, once again, to make granola bars.

I say attempting, because I’ve tried and failed with granola bars many times.  This time around was a semi-success, which is good because we’re leaving tomorrow and I don’t have time to try, try and try again.

I wanted these to be relatively nourishing, since they will be our primary snack of choice over the long weekend.  Whole grains in the form of rolled oats and freshly ground flour, combined with unsweetened dried cherries, a very ripe banana, some raw Tupelo honey (courtesy Savannah Bee Company) and sucanat (dehydrated sugar cane), along with a relatively small amount of expeller-pressed coconut oil and some toasted cacao nibs come together to create a nutritionally-dense granola bar.

Also?  Tasty.

Banana Split Granola Bars
prep time: 10 minutes
bake time: 40 minutes
yield: 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1/4 cup expeller-pressed coconut oil
  • 1 very ripe banana, pureed
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 300F and butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.  Line it with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.
  2. Combine the oats, flour, salt, soda and cacao nibs in a large bowl.
  3. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, coconut oil, sucanat, banana puree, and dried cherries.  Cook for a couple of minutes, until coconut oil has melted and sucanat has dissolved.  The cherries should also plump slightly.
  4. Remove from heat and add the vanilla to the liquid ingredients.
  5. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  6. Press the granola mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 300F for 40 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan.
  8. Once cooled, remove from the pan and slice into 12 bars.
  9. Enjoy!

These weren’t perfect – they still managed to fall apart somewhat when I went to slice them.  However, the flavor is really good, and the texture is nice and chewy.  The cherries, cacao nibs and bananas combine to give a flavor profile reminiscent of a banana split – sweet, tart, chocolatey – without being dessert-like.  I think they would be especially good with a cup or so of chopped nuts thrown in (I left them out because my husband might decide to try them, and he’s allergic), and maybe a touch more fat in the form of butter, peanut-butter, or just more coconut oil (I think the fat helps to bind them at room temperature).

I think these, along with some popcorn and sliced fruit, will go a long way toward taming the beast-like child on our road trip tomorrow.  Which will go an even further way toward maintaining my sanity.  And that’s a good thing.

Pie Is Meant To Be Shared

After almost 30 years in the same house, my husband’s parents made the decision to pack up and move 600 miles south.  From northern Virginia to north-eastern Georgia; from the suburbs of D.C. to the suburbs of Atlanta.

It can’t have been an easy decision to make – to leave the place you’ve called home for three decades (longer, really, if you consider they lived in Maryland for a while before their time in Virginia) and relocate to a completely unfamiliar area.  I mean, we’re about an hour from them, and my husband’s brother and his family are also about an hour away, but they’re faced with making new friends and establishing new routines after thirty years of the familiar.  And despite the fact that they did it, in part, to be closer to their two oldest sons, to their grandchildren, a change like that can be daunting.

The moving truck came to their house on Thursday and loaded up all of their belongings.  Their plan was to leave early Friday morning and drive straight through, arriving sometime Friday evening.  The moving truck would arrive early Saturday morning to unload everything.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, and I knew that they would be exhausted when they got here – from the drive, from the general stress that moving can cause, and from the emotional fallout that can come with a change like this.

Here in the South, we have a tradition of bringing food to people in times of stress.  It’s our way of offering comfort, of helping to bear some of their burden, of nourishing them – both physically and emotionally.  When a baby is born, we bring meals to the parents so that they don’t have to worry with cooking during those sleep deprived first few weeks.  When there’s a death, we offer an assortment of funeral casseroles to sooth the grieving family.  Food is love, but it is also often the last thing people want to think about when faced with a stressful situation.

Given their time frame, I figured they wouldn’t really have time to go grocery shopping before breakfast on Saturday, so on Friday I drove out to their new house (don’t worry, I didn’t have to break in – we had a key) to make a special delivery. I put together a basket with an assortment of jams and jellies, a loaf of bread, some scones, and some fresh fruit.  I also wanted them to have a lunch or dinner option, so as I was making lasagna for our dinner on Thursday night, I put together a second pan to take to them on Friday.

And last, but not least, there was cherry pie – delicate short crust filled with pitted sweet cherries and natural sugar cane, dotted with just a bit of butter, and enrobed with another layer of crust.

Baked until golden brown and bubbly, I guess it was my way of letting them know just how happy we are that they’ve chosen to move closer to us.  That we recognize the huge step they’ve taken, the things they’ve left behind, and that we welcome them with open arms.  Can you really bake that much meaning into one little cherry pie?  I think you can.

You see, the thing about pie is that it’s meant to be shared.  Sure, you can make individual pies, hand pies, mini pies, whathaveyou. But essentially, and at its core, pie is meant to be shared.  You take a lovely, whole pie, and you slice it up and you sit down at the table, and you share.  And you don’t just share the food, but you share words and stories.  You share life over pie.  So this pie – this beautifully imperfect cherry pie – was more than just food.  Because today, when we went and visited them after their exhausting 14-hour drive and their early morning truck delivery, we sat down with my husband’s parents in their new home and we shared their new life with them over pie.

Cherry Pie
prep time: 20 minutes
bake time: 50 minutes
serves: 8-10

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 tablespoons honey granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, frozen
  • 6 tablespoons ice water

Filling

  • 5 cups bing cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup natural sugar cane
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 450F
  2. Place the flours, honey granules and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine
  3. Cut the frozen butter into small pieces and add to the food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal
  4. Slowly add ice water until the dough forms a ball.
  5. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  6. Combine the cherries, natural cane sugar, corn starch and vanilla.
  7. Roll out half the dough and press into a 9-inch pie pan (it’s very delicate, so work quickly and carefully).
  8. Pour the filling into the pan.
  9. Roll out second crust and place on top of filling.  Fold edges of top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp.  Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.
  10. Bake at 450F for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 350F and bake for 40-50 minutes more – until crust is brown and filling is bubbly.
  11. Allow to cool before serving.
  12. Share and enjoy!