Driving seemed revelatory, then routine, then reviled. I still see the appeal of sad song, full tank and far horizon. But tracing circles to nowhere? Strictly out of necessity. So when my daughter landed her license, I handed her my car key.
Now she draws the circles; I’m the compass point. Without the distraction of travel, of traffic, of to-do, it’s possible to actually do.
Should I take a spin at the wheel, I feel like I’m trespassing. The music is up-tempo and up-volume. The coffee empties are black. And the passenger seat is occupied by a carton of granola bars. Apparently the enduring fruit/nut/oat chews work as both handmeal and hand-out. Looks like she’s never planning to leave the car. Good thing; I’m never planning to leave the house.
CHEWY GRANOLA BARS
Prep: 20 minutes; Bake: 35 minutes. Makes 18 bars.
1⁄2 cup dried cherries
1⁄2 cup dried apricots
2 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons vanilla
1⁄2 cup sliced almonds
1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
1⁄2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
1⁄2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
Heaping 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Chop: Toss cherries, apricots and 2 tablespoons oats in the food processor. Pulse several times, cutting down fruit. Slide into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle on vanilla.
2. Toast: On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together remaining oats, the almonds, pecans and pumpkin seeds. Slide into a 400-degree oven and toast, shaking once or twice, until almonds turn golden and the whole mix gives off a nice nutty fragrance, about 8 minutes. Slide oat mixture into the bowl with the fruit; toss. Lower the oven temperature to 300.
3. Boil: In a medium saucepan, heat maple syrup, butter, brown sugar and salt to a boil. (Note: It will foam up.) Pour this hot syrup over oats. Mix thoroughly.
4. Bake: Tumble oat mixture into a 9-by-9-inch baking pan lined with parchment paper. (Leave some overhang.) Cover with another sheet of parchment (to protect fingers from heat and stickiness) and press the dough firmly into the pan. Remove top paper. Slide into the 300-degree oven; bake until golden brown and still soft to the touch, about 35 minutes.
5. Cut: Cool completely. Lift out the granola block by the parchment paper and set on a cutting board. Slice into 18 bars. Wrap each in waxed paper for portability.