I decided to go for it.

Girl in the world…but mostly Illinois


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Blog Changes and The Great Lakes

As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a rather long hiatus from the blog. Pretty much for two reasons:

1. I got a job! Halleluiah, I got a job! And I love my position- major bonus. I’m learning a TON every day, working on a sort of ridiculous variety of projects, and, perhaps most importantly, I feel like the work I’m doing is having a positive impact on society. Another super legit benefit of this new position is that I’m surrounded by freshwater science. Example A.) this educational illustration of the Great Lakes System that found it’s way into my inbox last week.

http://www.ohiodnr.gov/geosurvey/lakeerie/lefact1/tabid/7829/Default.aspx

2. I’ve been dying to give this site a makeover. When I started out I didn’t have much of an idea if I’d like how the blog would turn out or if I’d keep up with it. I was also embarking on my last year of grad school, which I knew would be immediately followed by an alarming period of floating around in limbo. “I DECIDED TO GO FOR IT” was a good fit for a time but it’s time for a change! My life may not be completely sorted but I’ve entered a new chapter and the name has gots to go.

To commemorate my transition into The Rest of My Life, I’ve decided to go through the pain in the butt that is renaming a blog (as well as learning how to make it a little cooler and more efficient). So! By this time next week the blog will have a new title! Weeee!


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Caramelized Onion and Garlic Hummus

Growing up, my family didn’t eat a lot of meat. Occasionally burgers, pepperoni pizza, or chicken enchiladas made their way to the table but more often than not, meals happened to be vegetarian. As a result I’m not the kind of person who likes a big, meaty main course.

Living back at home I have noticed that I might not need a lot of meat but I do crave protein noticeably more than the rest of the house. Around noon you may find me tearing through the kitchen, searching for something substantial to make a snack into a meal. WHY IS THERE NO LUNCH MEAT IN THIS HOUSE. IF I HAVE ONE MORE BORING MORNINGSTAR CHIK’N NUGGET AND KALE WRAP I MAY LOSE IT.

Enter the chickpea. Canned chickpeas are a $1 wonder of versatility. Drained and rinsed, they are immediately ready to be poured over a salad or made into, my form of choice, a hummus. It brings excitement to a pile of raw veggies. It glues together leftovers from the night before. It makes a sandwich, a SANDWICH.

Just in case you don’t already know this; there are innumerable ways to flavor hummus. I have literally never measured out my ingredients because it’s so easy to freestyle with what you already have in the fridge and pantry. Every time I make a batch I use a different combination of spices, veggies, and flavored oils. One of my friends puts balsamic vinegar in his recipe and it tastes amazing. Shake it up and it never gets boring. I’m in in the middle of a caramelized onion phase, hence Caramelized Onion and Garlic Hummus.

Fixings

Caramelized Onion and Garlic Hummus
Butter and oil for caramelizing
1 small onion
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained
A small handful of fresh basil
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons tahini
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
About 1/2 cup of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by caramelizing a whole, small onion. Towards the end of the caramelization, throw the minced garlic into the pan as well.

In a food processor, combine the onions, chickpeas, basil, lemon juice, tahini, chili powder, and 1/4 cup water. Start blending, adding more water as needed. Give the hummus a taste before adding salt and pepper.

Hummus


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Basic Focaccia Bread

The weather finally cooled down this week. You know what that means? FALL! It also means NOT HAVING TO WAIT TO USE THE OVEN UNTIL AFTER 8PM! Thank goodness. Welcome back, the most wonderful of Seasons. I will celebrate your return with a slew of baked goods.

I find baking extremely satisfying. And there’s something about baking bread that really makes me feel like I’m taking care of business. Like, really providing. Reflecting on why I feel this way, I think it might have something to do with years of church-going. I also really enjoy wine as well as sharing a meal with others. Apparently Communion left a mark on my young, impressionable eating habits.

If a grainy wheat bread was representative of a well balanced meal, focaccia bread would be splurge-worthy take out. The melt in your mouth consistency of focaccia comes from the addition of quite a bit of olive oil. So much so, that if it were known by any other name I don’t see how it could not be called Olive Oil Bread. Different bakeries have their own take on focaccia (some recipes are more oily or salty than others) but this here is a basic recipe that’s perfect for adapting to your own preferences.

Foccacia

It seems like people shy away from making bread because they don’t know how to eyeball whether a dough needs more flour or not. For this recipe, if you’re using a stand mixer the dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should feel a little rubbery at first touch but get sticky of it’s held for too long.

Dough

Little bread dimples are a focaccia trademark. Yes, they’re cute but functionally they provide pooling nooks to evenly incorporate excess olive oil.

Once the dough is effectively drenched, you add your toppings. This loaf was topped with flaky sea salt (Maldon), freshly cracked pepper, and rosemary from the garden. Simple and delicious. Other topping options include, but are certainly not limited to: caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes, a brushing of pesto, roasted garlic, olives, roasted red peppers, grapes, or sesame seeds.

IMG_0445

Golden, flaky glory! This particular loaf barely had a chance to cool down before before it met it’s end.

Bread

Easy Focaccia Bread
Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell. This dough requires two rises, so the recipe ends up taking about 3 hours from start to finish.

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon warmed honey
5-6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup olive oil, plus a little more
Coarse sea salt
Black pepper
Fresh rosemary, chopped

Combine warm water, yeast, and warm honey in a small bowl. Stir it all up and let it sit for 15 minutes or so, until there’s a thick, yeasty froth on the surface.

In a mixer fitted with a dough hook (or if you don’t have one, put it all in a bowl, you poor fool) add 5 cups of flour, the tablespoon of salt, 1/2 cup of olive oil, and the yeast mixture. Let it mix on a low speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and uniform. At this point, add flour until the dough reaches the desired consistency. It should feel a little rubbery at first touch but get a sticky of it’s held for too long (picture above).

Move the dough into a bowl that’s been coated with olive oil (just reuse the mixing bowl), cover the bowl with a damp towel, and let it sit some place warm until the dough has doubled in size (should take about an hour).

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil into a cookie sheet with a lip. Stretch and press the dough out with your fingers until it’s evenly spread across the pan. Then, flip the dough over so both sides of the loaf-to-be are coated with oil. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for it’s second rise, which should take about an hour.

About 45 minutes into the second rise, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

When the dough is done rising, flip it over again in the pan to get it all oiled up. Use your fingertips to make dimples in the dough by pressing down to the bottom of the pan. Now add your chosen toppings. I added coarse sea salt, cracked pepper, and fresh rosemary.

Bake the focaccia for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. When it’s ready to come out, let it cool a few minutes before slicing and serving.

 

 


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Staying Hungry

It’s time for some real talk: I’ve been “without employment” since mid-May. Yes, technically that is also called being unemployed. But I wasn’t fired. I didn’t lose my job. I graduated and am working hard to find a position that I REALLY want. I went to grad school for this specific purpose. While hanging out in limbo land has proven to be unnerving at times I’m committed to this goal and I WON’T BE DETERRED.

That sounded pretty confident, huh? Spoiler alert- I don’t actually always feel like that. Some days I’m frustrated and more than a few times I’ve questioned my methods. The friends I graduated with are doing well in their chosen fields and I’m still in the networking phase. The thing is, deep down I’ve got this feeling that if I keep at it something big will come my way. This small flame of optimism is occasionally threatened by negative thoughts (Health insurance costs WHAT and you only get WHAT?!) but I try to stoke the fire whenever I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to stay motivated and goal-oriented day after day. Some people just seem to have that drive about them. I can be focused but I don’t find myself constantly chomping at the bit to get after life like a freaking robot of productivity. It’s certainly something to aspire to though.

I was having a similar discussion with my friend Shawn earlier in the summer and he suggested that I read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. He said it was both hilarious and motivating. I guess I was looking for a humorous kick in the pants because I read it pretty much immediately. For the vast majority of my life I had no real opinion of Arnold but by the end of the book I was a certifiable fan. He says ridiculous stuff like, “From then on, the army became a fantastic joyride”, and talks about meeting the Pope and what it’s like to have pranks played on you by the Kennedy family.ArnoldFront

Old Arn has certainly made some mistakes in his life (ahem…fathering a child with his housekeeper- yeah, he talks about it) but when you watch his life unfold you can’t help but admire him. I mean, he grew up in rural Austria in a house with no running water and went on to dominate the international bodybuilding scene, make a disgusting amount of money in real estate, and become the governor of the most populous state in America. CRAZY.

Considering where he came from and what he’s accomplished, it’s clear that he never would have come so far in life if he didn’t have robot (Terminator) productivity and if he hadn’t made a serious effort to improve himself along the way. Arnold writes that whenever he meets a great person, he asks them how they’ve achieved their goals. He then uses their advice to refine what he considers to be the Keys to Success. His autobiography ends with him sharing some of these solid, go-getter tips, which I have taken the liberty of summarizing for your reading pleasure. Except for #10. I left that one just the way it is.

1. “Never let pride get in your way.” People will always be better than you at certain activities or at aspects of your craft. Don’t let the fear of not being the best sour you. By keeping an open mind and celebrating others for what they excel at, you’ll allow yourself the opportunity to learn from the best.

2. “Don’t over think.” Over analysis can cripple you. The more knowledge you have, the more comfortable you should be relying on your instincts.

3. “Forget plan B.” “To test yourself and grow you need to operate without a safety net.” If you believe in your ability to achieve your goals you’re more likely to win the support of others. Failure is a possibility but if you don’t succeed, the fall won’t kill you. AND while pursuing your #1 priority other quality opportunities are likely to present themselves.

4. “You can use outrageous humor to settle a score.” If you are being awesome at life, at some point you will undoubtedly encounter haters. Don’t let other people’s ignorance bog you down. If you and your good attitude are on a roll, naysayers will eventually change their tune and come crawling back, trying to be a part of the winning team. And if you’re completely outrageous you can add insult to injury by sending them memos encoded with secret “f-you” messages, then leak it to reporters and pretend you had nothing to do with it when quite obviously you did.

5. “The day has twenty-four hours.” It is ridiculous how much you can get done if you set goals and train yourself to maintain focus. If you have 4 hours of free time between work and sleep, actually THINK about how you’ll spend that time. Plan it out: One hour walking a new trail with your dog. One hour trying a new recipe. One hour editing a photo project. One hour reading. BOOM! You’re getting things done.

6. “Reps, reps, reps.” There is no substitute for practice. If you want to really be good at something, the only way to get there is through a commitment to repetition.

7. “Don’t blame your parents.” Whether your parents were unsupportive, careless, or overbearing, how you react to your upbringing is determined by your own attitude. “Sometimes you have to appreciate the very people and circumstances that traumatized you” for shaping you into the person you are today.

8. “Change takes big balls.” Committing to a plan that you know will not provide immediate gratification takes serious courage. Goals that are important to you (or are a part of something bigger than you) are worth the struggle.

9. “Take care of your body and your mind.” Whether you’re naturally inclined to pursue physical fitness or to cultivate your brain, to be the best version of yourself you need to spend time developing both of these areas. Balance will only make you stronger and more satisfied.

10. “Stay hungry.” “Be hungry for success, hungry to make your mark, hungry to be seen and to be heard and to have an effect. And as you move up and become successful, make sure also to be hungry for helping others.” Well said, Arnold.

ArnoldBack


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Experimental Smoked Jalapeno Margaritas

This summer I’ve had two especially delicious drinks: a Smoked Margarita and a Jalapeno Margarita. I got to thinking, what if these flavors were combined to make one super cocktail. ONE DRINK TO RULE THEM ALL. Smoked margaritas generally get their flavor by coating the rim of the glass with smoked sea salt…but could you bring the flavor up a notch by infusing the tequila with something smoky too? Ooo, I hope so.

Being a good little scientist, I set up some trials in mason jars. All jars contained a few slices of jalapeno but the first had a few drops of liquid smoke, the second had some charred apple wood, and the third was left with just peppers. After the jars had sat for two weeks, I managed to scrape together some taste-testers (struggle), and we sat down to determine which combo worked out the best.

We all agreed that we preferred the tequila with the charred apple wood. It taste more woody than smokey but had great overall flavor. Where it was smooth and authentic the the liquid smoke tequila was hokey and in your face, like banana Runts candy.

Fixins

The non-experimental dimension of this drink was the jalapeno. Part of me doesn’t want to share this information (because for some reason, doing anything with alcohol makes people think you have wizard skills) but the bigger part of me wants to shout it from the rooftops: FLAVORING ALCOHOL IS TOO EASY. There are only three steps:

How to Infuse Alcohol
1) put whatever you’re using for flavor in a mason jar
2) pour in some booze (vodka works with basically everything)
3) close the jar and try to wait 2 weeks before drinking it

I’ve tried quite a few flavor combinations and this one, tequila with jalapenos and charred apple wood, is at the top of my list. I chose to leave out the seeds this round to get a better feel for the pepper flavor but if you’re a fan of spicy foods, by all means throw in the seeds too. Also, a hotter batch would be an ideal addition to a Bloody Maria (if for some reason you had tequila leftover from margarita night).

Fixins 2

Tequila

Smoked sea salt sounds wonderful, but let’s be serious, that’s not an ingredient most people have in in their pantry. If you do, I aspire to be an fancy as you someday. If you don’t, coating the rim of your glass in sea salt that’s been mixed with lime zest is also pretty exciting.

Limes

As far as I’m concerned, margaritas should be celebrated year round, but I’ll allow that there’s something about a warm summer breeze that begs to be paired with an ice cold margarita. They’re simple drinks that are made better with good ingredients.

Smoked Jalapeno Margarita
Serves one

Coarse sea salt
2 parts jalapeno and charred apple wood tequila
1 part lime juice
1 part triple sec

Prep the serving glass by wetting the the rim with a lime and then twisting it in a coarse salt. Fill a mixing glass with ice. Add the tequila, lime juice, triple sec and swirl it around to mix everything up and cool it down. Transfer the drink into the serving glass and enjoy!

Night drinks


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Cake for Breakfast

There is no shame in this game. Cake and coffee is an entirely appropriate breakfast. Especially if your fridge is flush with cherries and the garden rhubarb won’t quit. Plus, this is my favorite kind of cake. It’s the kind of cake that’s packed with flavor, not sugar. It’s dense without being dry and you can pretty much make it with whatever seasonal fruit you have on hand. While breakfast cake is most widely accepted when introduced at a brunch, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be used to make a regular morning feel a little more special.

RhubardWith my summer being as unstructured as it is, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be making an effort to add a little more “special” to every day. I’d say I’ve done a decent job so far but it’s amazing how before you know it, a schedule that’s wide open fills up with new activities. I moved home in May and since then (while looking pretty hard for a job) I’ve sort of been absorbed back into my neighborhood life. When I was at school I talked to my parents at least once a week but now we’re basically in constant contact. You know who is on the favorites list on my phone? My parents and my grandparents (it’s a new phone, but still…). A lot of that has to do with “Who’s making dinner”, “Did you put the dogs out”, etc. but for real, we hang out. I’ve already determined that getting the chance to have so much face time with my immediate family (and the people I’ve known for so long that I call them family) after not living here for a few years, will be looked back on as a major summer highlight. It might not be remembered as stunning an experience as hiking in Sedona, AZ or pulling in my first fish of edible size in Saskatchewan but the memory of joking with my mom while we eat cake for breakfast instead of cereal will be treasured all the same.

Rhubarb 'n cherries

Rhubarb and Cherry Summer Breakfast Cake
Recipe adapted from Not Without Salt. I added 3 cups of fruit total to this cake but if you wanted to add more I think it could stand at least another cup.

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup pitted cherries
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, soft
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain strained or Greek yogurt
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix together the rhubarb, cherries, and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a small bowl. Let that sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 8″ or 9″ (2″ high), round cake pan.

In a larger bowl, cream the butter and the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla. Also mix in the rhubarb-cherry mixture and the yogurt. Stir until combined.

In another bowl whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Pour the dry mixture into the wet and stir until just combined. The batter will be fairly thick.

Spread the batter into the pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it out of the pan to cool the rest of the way on a wire rack.

A thick cake like this stores best in the refrigerator and lasts for about 3 days…if it manages to stick around that long.

Summer cake


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Summer Hotness Mix

In the car. In the kitchen. On the porch. Dancing around the house. These are the songs I’ve been listening to over and over again this summer. That is the only unifying theme of this mix. Well that, and that all these songs rock.

New Hotness Mix (click HERE to listen to it as a playlist)

1. I’m Blue– The Ikettes
2. Party– Beyonce ft. Andre 3000
3. One day/Reckoning Song (Wankelmut Remix)– Asaf Avidan
4. The Bay– Metronomy
5. High School Lover– Cayucas
6. Breezeblocks– Alt-J
7. The Doctor Will See You Now– Wax Fang
8. Genevieve– Lucius
9. Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)– Thao Nguyen
10. Fade Away– Intergalactic Lovers
11. No Diggity– Chet Faker
12. 212– Azealia Banks ft. Lazy Jay
13. 1 Train– A$AP Rocky ft. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Badass, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big Krit
14. Robert Raimon Roy– Robert Raimon Roy
15. Blurred Lines– Robin Thicke ft. T.I., Pharrell
16. Foolish Fool– Dee Dee Warwick
17. Bring It On Home To Me– Otis Redding and Carla Thomas

musica

Clockwise from the top left corner: La La Land by Wax Fang, An Awesome Wave by Alt-J, Foolish Fool by Dee Dee Warwick, Le Tigre Blanc by Robert Raimon Roy


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Papa Owns Pesto

Even though my grandpa, Papa, passed away years ago, as far as my family is concerned he still has a lock on homemade pesto. Pretty much any mention of this sauce/spread/spoon accompaniment is met with a comment about “Papa’s pesto”. For good reason- his recipe is classic and delicious. Over the years I’ve strayed from his original recipe, substituting full basil for a variety of greens and pine nuts for (usually) whatever nuts I already had in my pantry. It turns out that as long as you keep the proportions relatively the same, it’s nearly impossible to make a bad batch.

This time around, for my greens I used 2 cups basil and 3 cups kale and for the nuts I went with 1/4 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup walnuts. Usually I like to use at least 2 cups of basil but I’ve made this recipe before entirely with kale (known for its toughness) and it was still highly devourable.

Greens and nuts Old standards Garlic and nuts PESTO

“Papa’s” Pesto

1/2 cup nuts (pine, walnuts, almonds, pistachio…go crazy)
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
Juice from one small lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
5 cups greens, packed (one type of green or a combination of basil, spinach, arugula, kale, collards, etc.)
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

DO IT:
In a food processor, blend the nuts and the garlic. Pulse until all the nuts are a broken down to an appropriate size. Add in the salt, pepper, and lemon juice and pulse to combine.

The greens probably won’t fit in the food processor bowl all at once, so start by adding a handful or two at a time. The olive oil can be poured in as needed (to better control pesto thickness).

After all the greens have been added, pour in the cheese and pulse to combine.

This pesto freezes really well as long as it’s kept air-tight. If you freeze it in a container you can pour a little olive oil, air-defense layer over the top. Sometimes I freeze it in an ice cube tray before putting the blocks in a freezer bag (so I can pull out smaller portions as needed), and then I just try to get as much air out of the bag as possible before deep-6ing it in the freezer.


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Turning your ex-boyfriend’s pants into shorts

Repurposing people is bad. Repurposing their old pants is awesome. Especially if those pants have bleach stains on the bottom and Goodwill won’t accept them.

I’ve turned many a pair of jeans into shorts over the years but this was the first time I tried altering trousers. Not that hard! Here’s how to do it yourself: Start by taking a look at a pair of shorts that you already know you like the length of.

shorts and pants

Measure the inseam of your old favorites. This is how long you want you want your new shorts to end up being.

inseam

Measure the waist band of the trousers (so the cuff can have same thickness).

measuring the band

Now you have to do  a little math. From the crotch of the trousers, measure out the length of the desired inseam + the thickness of 2 cuffs. So for me, that was 4″ (desired length of shorts) + 1.5 (cuff length) +1.5 (cuff length) = 7″ total.

Draw a line to across the trousers at a right angle from your new, longer shorts length. Make sure you’ve got it right and trim the pants along the line.

cutting

Roll the bottom of the now-shorts up two times and pin them in place. At this point the shorts should look just like you want them to. Start sewing!

pinning

You may not have this problem (totally depends on the type of pants) but my trousers tapered towards the bottom so I made a little pleat on the outer seam to deal with the extra fabric. I also had to shorten up the pockets a little bit so they didn’t hang out the bottom of the shorts.

corner

Presto change-o! New, kind-of-fancy shorts.

done


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Oaty, Nutty, Fruity Granola Bars

I’m about to hit the road to spend a highly anticipated vacation week with some friends in the Southwest. It promises to be a week filled with hugs, hot tubs, and desert hikes. I wanted to bring a gift for my hosts that screamed THE MIDWEST but local beer violated all sorts of TSA rules and, let’s be serious, would be really heavy to lug around various airports. As a backup plan, I made granola bars…in the Midwest. Not the same thing but it’s still a tasty treat that will be transported with love. AND instead of clanking around and being a general hassle in our day-packs these bars will make us strong because they’re filled with all sorts of good-for-you oats, nuts, and fruits.

These granola bars are of the cakey variety. To get cakey, you need some fat. Peanut butter and coconut oil will do the trick. You can also add any liquid sweetener at this point- I used maple syrup.

Oils

Mix your melted sugar/oil mixture with the other liquids you’re including. In the glass bowl I’ve got applesauce, vanilla, and ground flax seed (which mixes in more evenly with the liquids because it’s finely ground).

wet

In a separate bowl, prep your oats, fruit, nuts, and spices.

Dry stuff

Combine the wet and the dry…

wet and dry

…and pour it all out in to an 8″x8″ pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure to pat the mixture down to create a dense, granola-y block. There’s nothing in this recipe to make the bar pop up as it bakes so the ingredients pretty much look the same when they go in as when they come out.

pan

Bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. When it’s done, wait to cut the block up into bars until the pan is totally cool. Seriously, WAIT. The warmer it is the more crumbly the insides. Because I have no patience, I tried cutting when the pan was “kinda warm”, “just noticeably warm”, and “totally cool”. Results were increasingly better with time.

done

“Cakey” Granola Bars
Recipe adapted from the Kitchn. Ps. if the only nuts you can find happen to be a mixed bag of salted pepitas and sunflower seeds (because you moved home and people in your parents town aren’t known for valuing a low-sodium diet) enjoy how little you’re now paying for groceries and simply opt out of including the extra salt.

1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 1/4 cups apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped to raisin size
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

DO IT:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8″x8″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Over low heat, combine the coconut oil, peanut butter, and maple syrup and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Lick your spoon because it tastes delicious. Add the ground flax seeds, apple sauce, and vanilla, and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the oats with the dried fruit, seeds, cinnamon, and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture to the baking pan and flatten it down to create a dense bar with a flat surface.

Bake until golden, about 45 minutes. Let the giant bar cool completely in the pan before lifting it out and cutting it up.  An 8″x8″ pan cuts nicely into 12 single-serving bars.

Wrap individual bars tightly for transporting or store them in an airtight container. They should last for about a week in the refrigerator.