for our first anniversary, jon and I went to inverness. it’s a tiny little town, and one of only a handful or so that can be found dotted along the point reyes national seashore. it’s quiet and beautiful and there are so many places to wander.
some of my favorite things from the weekend: the drive on pierce point road out to mcclures beach (pictured below); dinner at sir at star, oysters and garlic fries at nick’s cove, and the hike to bass lake. on the list for the next trip: rent kayaks on tomales bay and hang out on those deserted beaches with a picnic and a book, eat at saltwater oyster depot, and hike the tomales bay trail.
I was having a difficult time trying to figure out what I should call these. I’ve made them so many times, but each time, they’ve been a little different – which is, I suppose, a big part of the reason I love the recipe so much.
Essentially, you can make the granola bar to your taste by mixing in different combinations of dried fruit and nuts (or chocolate). I’m partial to dried cherries and almonds, so that is what I usually start with (and the recipe I chose to include here). In the past, I’ve also included dried apricots and pumpkin seeds – and am sure that dried blueberries, hazelnuts, or walnuts would be equally delicious. The key component that allows for their versatility is the honey-almond butter “glue” that holds them together.
In case the recipes here haven’t given me away just yet, I have a dairy and soy allergy. I have learned the hard way that when traveling, especially during the airport portion, eating can be pretty tricky unless I plan in ahead. Almost all of the time, the seemingly simple things like bread, oatmeal, and even organic whole ingredient snack bars have traces of milk or soy lecithin (if you have to read food labels for any reason, you can relate). So since Jon and I will be traveling this weekend, I decided to make these to take along. They pack really well and are a good snack on the plane.
Before you get started, here are a few things you should know about this recipe. 1) If you have the time and equipment, I highly recommend making your own almond butter. It’s very easy, and makes a world of difference in the final product. 2) If you exceed the amount of dried fruit or nuts/seeds listed, you’ll likely have to compensate with a higher volume of the almond butter and honey mixture. The ratio is roughly 3:2 (fruit/nut to almond butter mixture) 3) Toast the oats, seeds, and nuts separately. Each has a different optimal toasting time, and the turning point is often reached quickly, so watch them carefully. They will become fragrant and slightly browned when done.
brown rice + almond butter granola bars
(adapted from food 52)
1 1/2 cups gluten free oats*
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw sliced almonds
1 1/2 cups dried cherries
3 cups brown rice cereal
1 cup almond butter (see recipe below)
1 cup raw honey
1 tsp. salt (only if almond butter is unsalted, otherwise 1/2 tsp.)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
*This version also happens to be gluten-free, as the brown rice cereal is naturally, and the oats can easily be swapped for a gluten-free variety. Regular old fashioned oats work just as well.
Preheat the oven to 350. Toast the oats, almonds, and sunflower seeds separately. The oats should take about 15 minutes, sunflower seeds about 12-14, and almonds about 10-12. Meanwhile, measure the rice cereal into a large bowl. As you finish toasting the oats, seeds, and nuts, add them to the bowl with the cereal. Once everything is done and slightly cooled, add the cherries and mix well to combine.
Prepare a 13×9 pan by greasing it slightly. Alternatively, line the pan with parchment paper to prevent the bars from sticking.
In a small saucepan, combine the honey and almond butter. Heat on low, just until the mixture thins slightly and small bubbles form on the sides. It’s important not to let the mixture boil, it will make it too dry and won’t hold the bars together well. Once it’s heated, add the salt and cinnamon and stir until incorporated. Pour the warmed almond butter and honey over the cereal mixture, and toss gently but thoroughly to make sure everything is combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared 13×9 pan, using a spatula to distribute it evenly. Once it is loosely in place, take a sheet of parchment paper the size of the pan and lay over top. Use your hands to press the bars into the corners, smoothing over the top as you go. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day (or at least 4 hours later), cut the bars however you like and store them in an airtight container.
3 cups raw almonds
1 tsp. raw honey
1-2 tsp. sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350. Toss the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes. Let cool slightly, but not completely. Put all three cups in a food processor, and process to a fine powder. At this point, the almonds will start to break down. Continue to let the processor run, stopping to scrape down the sides every 2 minutes or so. When it’s finished, it will be smooth and creamy, usually after letting the food processor run for at least 10-12 minutes. Add the salt and honey, and pulse to combine. Store in an airtight jar. You will use almost all of it for the granola bars.
last weekend, jon and I drove to big basin redwood state park.
we made our way there and back on highway one, starting south out of san francisco on 280 – through pacifica and half moon bay – until we reached la honda road and wove east on skyline boulevard to highway 9.
it’s been a few months since our last trip out of the city. at the end of july, shortly after arriving in california (and newly married), we took a week to drive to and from portland. while the trip to portland is one that could be done in a day, we decided that we’d rather take our time and see the coast – stop at state beaches and visitors centers along the way, really take things in – so with a back seat full of camera equipment, books, and food, we set out across the golden gate bridge toward eureka.
10 miles shy of the oregon border, we cut east on highway 199 away from crescent city per the suggestion of a national park employee in orick. using our phones as a guide, we took a few turns off the redwood highway into jedediah smith redwood state park, and landed on an almost single-lane road that snaked through the giant trees. compared to being 10th in a line of cars along a two-lane highway, the byway felt like a well-kept secret – the ability to stop underneath the trees was something I’ll never forget about that drive. and just as easily as we had found our way onto this road, we made our way to the other end – into oregon.
on this recent weekend trip, all it took was the thirty-minute stretch on skyline boulevard to make me feel the same as I had in jedediah smith state park. the narrow road linked jaunts through the tall trees with stretches along the crest of a hill by way of tight turns and ascents away from the ocean. when we arrived in the park, jon cooked bacon in our new dutch oven, and we made these sandwiches. every once in a while, it feels really good to get away.
makes 2 sandwiches
4 slices country bread (we used semifreddis sweet batard)
6 slices thick cut bacon
1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see below)
1 medium avocado
2 handfuls of arugula
We packed all of our ingredients – some prepared, some not. Start with the bacon – cook over the fire (or on the stove) in a cast iron pan (we cooked ours on the lid of the dutch oven) until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, mash the avocado slightly and season with sea salt. spread the avocado mash onto one side of the bread, layer with 1/2 of the roasted tomatoes, then arugula. When the bacon has finished cooking, break each piece in half and layer on top of the arugula – 3 slices per sandwich. Top with the other slice of bread & cut in half.
(inspired by these from heidi swanson)
1 1/2 – 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 T. olive oil
On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, then sprinkle with sugar and salt. Roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes. Once the tomatoes have cooled, store them in the fridge in an air-tight container.
I have a new appreciation for hot plates and toaster ovens.
this weekend I moved from an apartment in inman square to a studio in the south end. trees line my new street, I’m a ten minute walk to my favorite espresso royale caffe and flour bakery, and am getting acquainted to the mini-fridge, microwave, and bed doubling-as-a-couch lifestyle. although i may feel differently come december, it turns out my concerns about not having an oven were at least somewhat unwarranted. tonight for dinner I made quinoa with a few drops of olive oil, arugula, salt and pepper, and topped it with two eggs, chopped avocado, and grape tomatoes. all on a single-burner hot plate (the quinoa was made first). living here and cooking this way will force me to be creative with food, again. i’ll have to forgo some of the staples i’d ordinarily rely on this time of year like roasted squash, and baked oatmeal isn’t anywhere in the foreseeable future–but that’s alright. I’m just thankful to be here.
earlier in the week I went to visit my cousin, christina, in new york. turns out that megabus is amazing. I never took the bus to new york last spring, for some reason, but it was really easy and well worth the $26 round-trip ticket. I spent part of wednesday afternoon wandering around the east village and at ost cafe on the corner of 12th and avenue a, waiting for christina to finish work. this was my view from the cafe window. hopefully during the course of the fall I’ll have time to make a few more trips to the city. until then, i’ll be posting more of my toasted, re-heated and single-pot meals.
my friends, elisabeth and ryan, during a trip to mt. desert island, maine.