I just finished reading an inspirational book titled Wild Dogs, a Naked Man, and Such by Marjorie Ketcher and Jim Ehle. Jim is a friend of mine, and I’m glad we’re pals, because it’s likely I never would have learned of this story on my own. It’s subtitled Inspiration for Reluctant Adventurers, and is about Marjorie’s solo (solo!) ride across North America on Old Blue, her trusty bicycle. It’s a little book, but it’s a big story full of more guts than glory, and I don’t think I’m giving too much away by telling you that the most important part of it all is the “Such.”
Whether you’re a hard-core adventurer (reluctant or otherwise) or just an armchair wannabe (like me - I don’t even own a bike), you probably can understand the thrill of tackling a personal goal. And you’re going to need fuel to get through it all. I like these Almond Butter Granola Bars that I adapted from a recipe in Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Candy Book. They’re dense and chewy and full of vitamins, complex carbohydrates and protein with a little high-glycemic-index kick. I think they’d be good on the road, but they’re also good to grab with your morning coffee if you’re a little slow to get started (like me).
If you’re a reluctant cook, these bars are also easy to make, requiring very little cooking. I made the Granola for mine, but you can use whatever granola you like. I also made the almond butter, which simply involved coarsely chopping and very lightly toasting some almonds and pulverizing them in the food processor until they turned to butter. I added a very small amount almond oil (about 1 teaspoon to about 2 cups of almonds), which seemed to help the almonds adventure on to a spreadable stage less reluctantly. You could certainly buy your almond butter, or use peanut butter or another nut butter.
If you use a glass or metal dish or pan to make these bars, be sure to grease it well and/or line it with parchment or wax paper. I use a flexible silicone baking pan (8” x 8”) and they never stick to it. (I spray it with a little nonstick cooking spray for insurance.) I don’t think I’ve ever actually baked anything in this pan, so I don’t know how it performs in the oven, but for sticky recipes like this one (also homemade caramels, etc.), it does reliably well. I’m thinking of naming it Old Blue in honor of Marjorie’s bicycle.
I know these granola bars are good because I make them pretty regularly and usually eat most of them myself. I know Marjorie and Jim’s story and philosophy are inspirational because I’ve already began to think of many “journeys” I’ve been reluctant to begin. And I started shopping for a bike today. I don’t know where things might go from here (although I could do without wild dogs or a naked man), but I do know it will be such and adventure!
Almond Butter Granola Bars
Adapted from The Ultimate Candy Book by Bruce Weinstein
You could replace the almond butter with peanut butter and the almond extract with vanilla.
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup almond butter
½ cup powdered milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ cups granola
1. Coat an 8” x 8” baking pan (or a smaller one) with vegetable oil or cooking spray. If you are using a glass or metal pan, you may also want to line it with parchment or wax paper. Coat the paper with oil or spray as well.
2. Place the corn syrup and brown sugar into a medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook at a boil for 30 seconds.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and carefully press the mixture into an even layer. It will be quite stiff and still quite hot. To make thicker bars, do not press the mixture all the way to the edge of the pan. It will be stiff enough to hold its shape. (Here is where a slightly smaller pan might work well.)
5. Cool on a wire rack, then chill until the bars are firm enough to cut. Cut into 12 bars. Individually wrap the bars and store in an airtight container or zip-top bag in the refrigerator. The bars are very stiff and can be hard to chew when cold, so remove them from the refrigerator for a while before enjoying.
Makes 12 servings. These bars freeze very well.