Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Almond Joy

On our last big shopping trip “to town” we mostly purchased healthy foods, in insane quantities.  One bag of indulgence found its way into our cart, and I am here to tell you these are made by The Devil himself.  
Their one redeeming feature is eventually (once you’ve eaten roughly 2.4 servings), you can finally put them down for a while, then you come crawling back for more.  They are far less sweet than an Almond Joy candybar, which makes them better in my opinion, but they still pack a fair amount of sweetness.  

I decided I needed to find my own personal almond joy, and some how make it healthier than these devilishly tasty treats.  

Granola bars are one of my favorite things to bake and of course, to eat.  I’ve concocted a million variations on the classic granola bar recipe, and I’ll be sharing those here.  This recipe leans more towards a granola dessert bar, which suits me just fine. Typically I make healthier versions of granola bars, but this version is so tasty, it is worth the extra sugar, calories, because they are down right delicious. 

Almond Joy Granola Bars 
(gluten free; or not - you decide)

2 C      Bob’s Old-fashioned Rolled Oats*

2 C      Bob’s Shredded Coconut 

2 C      Sliced Raw Almonds**  

1/2 C Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

1/2 C Almond Butter 

2 tsp. Vanilla Extract 

1/3 C Sweetener (I used: 1/3 C agave nectar, 1/3 C brown sugar and 1/3 C raw sugar) 

Grease a 9 x 13 in glass baking pan with coconut oil, lightly.  Press and trim a rectangular piece of parchment paper into the pan.  In a bowl, mix ALL of the ingredients together until well blended, but not over-mixed.  Pour into prepared pan.  Spread evenly, then use another piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap to apply more even pressure across the bars.  A book and some biceps works like magic.  Once they are pressed evenly and firmly, remove the top piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap.  

Bake at 350 F for 12-18 minutes, until the top is evenly a light golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes.  Then carefully lift up the parchment paper and remove the bars from the pan, then place on a cooling rack.  Cool until they firm up.  You could accelerate this process by placing them in the refrigerator for 20 minutes or so.  Enjoy...with milk, and seconds.  

*I used gluten free, you could use regular oats if you are not on a gluten-free diet.
**You could also use slivered almonds if you wanted to.

These Almond Joy Granola Bars lasted about 18 hours in our house, and I was able to snap this photo of them before they became extinct. 
In an effort to burn off some additional calories from wolfing down these bars, I headed out the door, favorite mug of tea in hand, and camera ready.  Off with the dogs for an afternoon hike with Maya. 
We have been fortunate to experience a never-ending fall which has been a welcome and very much needed gift.  We have been busy catching up on making firewood, spruce hen hunting, exploring the fall trails, and preparing for winter.  
The beauty this place has to offer, continues to surprise and delight us. As the leaves have fallen, new treasures and a fair amount of junk has presented itself.  Also, the views have opened up and my sitting spot now allows for a perfect river and Mt. Sanford view.  The view from the wood shed isn't too bad either (pictured below).
Yesterday we made an unplanned trip in to Tok.  It was snowing lightly, 34 F, with small patches of snow scattered across the tundra.  The mountain views that impressed me on our last trip there were nowhere to be found. Flat grey skies all around.  

Despite the flat skies, golden yellow leaves, reds, and browns - electrified, even in the lack of sunlight.  Heading back over the river and through the woods (and mountains), snow softly fell.  One mountain side would be covered in fresh snow, while the other still vibrant and full of yellow fall life, a few feet of elevation or protection from the direction the storm came from, made all the difference.  I kicked myself for the entire car ride for having forgotten my camera.  

When we returned home the temperature was 49 F, blazing yellow sunshine with a crisp blue sky, and a smattering of various clouds scattered across the mountains and the sky.  Our neighbors have all sworn that the tempratures are considerably warmer than in Tok, and that we have more sunny days too.  So far, that seems to be the case and has again made us thankful we chose to live here, in the middle of nowhere instead of a bustling city, like Tok.  The winds we've been experiencing for the better part of a week calmed down a bit and we were able to step out for a hike and enjoy the afternoon.  
We loaded up on the four-wheeler and set out to spot birds, run the dogs, and quench our thirst for adventure on a school-night.  When you have the wilds of nature for your backyard it isn't hard to go on a big adventure and be home in time for dinner.
The leaves are past their peak and many have fallen and wind-scattered in patches and piles, like freshly shoveled snow.  Up until a few days ago, looking at the trees was a practically overwhelming experience because of the intense yellows and occasional splash of rich fireweed reds and cranberry blaze. Now that many of the leaves are down, simply walking about, the ground is almost blinding with rich golden light. Every where you go, everything is intensified.  The colors. The smells.  The visual stimulation.  
An adventurous (and slightly over-ambitious) creek crossing led to a watery dead end of exploration.  The return trip used an alternate crossing, that was a speedy hop and float across the stream and finally, we found safety on the other side.  

While the grass wasn't greener on the other side of the stream, George sure did seem a little cheekier.  

 I was reminded of the Oregon Trail game, when you elect not to hire a ferry service, but instead to ford the river.  That plan never quite played out as you would have hoped. 
Bumper sticker on one of the few non-running cars on our lot. 
We got to put our winch to good use, and practiced crisis and panic management. The kids were cool, calm and collected, as were the adults.  
Having our sense of adventure satisfied, we returned home and gave thanks, then ate a menagerie of leftovers.  We kept things quiet for the remainder of the night.  The Almond Joy bars disappeared as the eight-burner U.S. Army kitchen wood stove crackled and kept us toasty warm.  Reading and quiet.  A perfect Monday night.  

We arose this morning to another incredible sunrise over the Mentasta Mountains.  The photo turned out really well, but it really does not capture the magnificence of the sunlight playing across this mountainous, river filled valley.  
Taken off the deck off the dining room.

 Taken in front of The Moose Lodge, looking out at the barn.
The view of Mt. Sanford from the end of our driveway - Maya's bus stop.

Every day at The Moose Lodge brings surprise, wonder, and adventure.  Every day we give thanks for our wild dreams coming true.  

Here I say goodbye to September, and now that October has begun a new season awaits, apparently in Tok - just down the road a bit, which means the richness and magic of September is gone, and the long winter lies ahead.  More adventuring and wonderment to be had, with little and big surprises sure to be found along the way.  Goodbye, September I will miss you dearly.

An excerpt from September Blue:

Oh September and the richness you provide stay with me a little longer 
Come into my soul 
My heart, for it falls for you a little more each autumn 
September, glorious September  

-K. Hepworth, 2005 

My "Happy Sheets" remind me of the blue sky and lemon yellow sun.  
Nothing is more appropriate having these sheets on the line. Best clean sheet day ever!