The quest for direction (and the perfect oat bar), continued…
For the past month or so, I’ve been planning. Spectacular, beautiful, and meaningful eating design events have been playing through my mind’s eye over and over. Interesting, I would think to myself as I watched these scenes unfold before me. And I really couldn’t (and can’t) help it, they just burst into my head. At first, I didn’t judge them. It was fun day-dreaming (the best form of mental exercise there is), seeing what my imagination would come up with next. But then, when I started to question this use of my time, and mainly myself, I started to panic. Literally, worry. And not just a little, but a lot. What does this mean? Why is this happening? Ugh, I thought, talk about putting a damper on things. When this happens, and I’m lucky enough to catch myself at it, I try to frame things in a new light for myself to help me step outside of the issue, ex: If your best friend came to you and confided she’d been having some wonderfully creative ideas popping up, would you dissuade her and her process by asking non supportive probing questions? No.
As it turns out, there is still a lot of MFA left in me. In fact, it’s not going anywhere. That experience, while it will take me the rest of my life to fully digest, did so much for me in the way of coming into my own. While I will be forever grateful for this, there is a lot to sort through still–something I have been putting off for, oh, the past year. Forming my creative self and coming into my own was anything but easy. Doing this under (and do mean under) intense scrutiny, critique, and little to no support would leave anyone wary–not to mention worn out. But the old adage “time heals” is certainly true, especially in this case. Except, it wasn’t my conscious mind per se, that let me know it was alright to start living creatively again, it was my day dreams. It’s amazing what a little rest, recuperation, and a focus on health will do not only to the body, but the mind as well. And those non supportive probing questions I default to asking myself (and inciting panic and immobility)? Just leftovers from a critical juncture in my personal growth. Now that I know this, I can (literally) move on!
Wouldn’t it be nice if life were always a single, aligned package, all wrapped up with a neat little bow–and presented to us for us to unwrap? I used to think so, but now I’m not so sure. Yes, it would make things “easier” in the way of knowing what’s to come exactley and not having any surprises. But it’s those surprises that force us to grow, to think for ourselves, and to live. Life may seem like a bottomless pit while we go through an especially tough time. But once through and can look back, you are undeniably a different, deeper person. That personal experience is priceless and in the end will help shape the future. The trick is, I’ve discovered, is to really understand what we’ve been through in order to know where we are going. I tried and tried to push down the shame and guilt I felt for not “living up to” the standards of my school, my parents, of whomever-I-felt-I-let-down-before; for not “creating” in a way they saw fit, or living my life in a way that they could understand. Cliche sounding, I know. But, it’s even more weird when you realize,
hey, that’s exactley what I’ve been doing.
It’s even weird now to say out loud. But, I’m excited because I can take action and do something about it.
All of this thinking and multiple realizations later, (of course) I found myself in the kitchen. My focus was on these oat bars and trying to find one that I could make over and over again, to have as a staple snack in the house. Crunchy, chewy, layered with texture and pizazz, I want no ordinary oat bar. So I recipe tested until I found the winner. Of course (and this ALWAYS happens!) Heidi Swanson‘s power bars won out. She is incredible, seriously, incredible. And her recipes, well, they are all over-the-top incredible too. So you know what to expect from these oat bars then–sheer amazingness. The other blueberry oat bars were delicious too, don’t get me wrong. But they were actually more like a dessert than a grab-and-go kind of thing I was looking for. I’d make them again for sure and the filling options could be endless (substitute the blueberries for pumpkin, cherries, apples, you name it…). So really, it was a win win for us all.
Happy recipe trying (and meditating)!
Cranberry Ginger Power Bars, via Heidi Swanson
1 1/4 cups walnut halves (5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup oat bran
3 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup brown rice syrup (see Note)
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (see Note)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly spray an 8-by-11-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden, about 9 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Transfer the walnuts to a large bowl. Add the puffed rice, rolled oats, cranberries, oat bran and ginger and toss well.
In a small saucepan, combine the brown rice syrup, cane sugar and salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the syrup into the rice-oat mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer the warm mixture to the prepared baking dish and pack lightly with a spatula greased with cooking spray. Let cool for at least 45 minutes before cutting into 16 bars.
The cranberry-walnut bars can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper and kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Blueberry Oat bars, via Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with enough water or juice to form a smooth paste
3 cups oatmeal* (regular, not instant)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces unsweetened applesauce
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) agave nectar
6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 375F. Oil an 8×8-inch baking dish.
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, agave nectar, and juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, stir in the vanilla and the cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir as the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.
Put 1 1/2 cups of the oatmeal into a blender and grind it to a fine powder. Pour it into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the remaining oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Stir in the apple sauce, agave nectar, water, and vanilla, and mix well.
Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing well to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon the blueberry filling over the batter, and cover the blueberries with the remaining batter.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.