Last week my daughter and I needed to come up with a snack for her girl scout troop meeting. It had to be healthy, transportable, peanut and nut-free, and fun. I knew just the thing: Elkdream bars from Elin England's forthcoming book "Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home", a sequel to "Eating Close to Home: A Guide to Local Seasonal Sustenance in the Pacific Northwest", which I described here.
The best thing about these bars is that they are extremely accommodating. We omitted the hazelnuts and used sunflower butter to make them nut free, we didn't have pumpkin or sunflower seeds on hand, so we increased the sesame seeds and flax seeds, and added some chia seeds for good measure (on hand for favorite sauce, porridge, and pancakes), we'd run out of honey, so we used maple syrup, and we added some chopped apricots along with the cranberries. The end result after all this tampering was so delicious that it was completely devoured by the troop. This weekend I'll make another batch to pack for school snacks. After all the harrowing news from Boston this past week, from which I've assiduously shielded my children despite anxious phone calls with their grandparents in lockdown, because how can one begin to explain such senseless destruction, it is somehow comforting to laden their lunch boxes with homemade treats when sending them out into the world.
from Elin England's forthcoming book
"Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures Eating Close to Home"
In a large mixing bowl, stir together:
2 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cook oats)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast at 325 degrees for 15 minutes. Pour back into the bowl. Leave the oven on, as you'll use it again in a few minutes.
Meanwhile, combine in a small saucepan:
1/2 tsp ground ginger, or substitute cinnamon or cardamom (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter, or substitute sunflower butter, almond butter, or hazelnut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 to 3 Tbsp butter
Heat over medium-low heat, stirring until dissolved, then remove from the heat (so it doesn't burn). This is the glue that holds the bars together.
Pour the glue mixture over the oat/nut mix and add:
1 cup dried cranberries (or your choice of chopped, dried fruit)
Mix the oat/nut mix, the glue, and the dried fruit together very well.
Line a 9x12 baking pan with parchment paper (you can oil the pan to help the parchment stick down). Cut the paper long enough that it comes up all 4 sides of the pan (you can pleat the corners). Plop the mixture into the pan and press down HARD all over. A good way to do this is to spread a piece of waxed paper over the top and press down with your hands.
Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool COMPLETELY (this part is really important). Lift the whole arrangement out of the pan onto a cutting board, using the overhanging parchment paper as a handle. Cut whatever sized bars you like, and store in an air tight container, using waxed paper to separate layers. Save any crumbs that accumulate to sprinkle over yogurt.