I always find the scent of fall evocative of something I can’t name. It fills me with yearning and an awareness of great and melancholy beauty, fleeting youth, and other things I knew about when I studied the romantic poets. Is it simply the smell of autumns past? It has a similar effect – though unsullied by higher education – on my youngest, who told me today that the air gave her that feeling like, “You know, that French word.” Ah yes, deja vu for sure.
Last weekend it was so impossibly beautiful (after one of the wettest Septembers on record) that I had to escape my pleasant, but hum-drum routine for a tramp in the woods. I hiked to Lena Lake and on the way up to the viewing rock I had plenty of time to crunch leaves underfoot and contemplate an abiding mystery: “What is the perfect food to take on a hike?”
Unlike some mysteries, efforts at solving it are quite satisfying. Once I took some peanut-topped brownies (oh, and my friend Marnie) to Mt. Si and it was such a good day. It goes without saying that fruit and a hearty sandwich are a picnic must-have but I don’t want to talk about that now. I want to talk about what comes after: the treat. The little reward for getting out and climbing something. A walk in nature is its own reward of course, just as virtue supposedly is but there’s no reason not to sweeten the deal.
Generally, I consider vegan desserts oxymoronic (and sometimes just moronic. Ice “cream’ made of tofu? Saints preserve us!) but I do enjoy some Alicia Silverstone now and then. Her book, The Kind Diet, has some specious information in it but still, some tasty recipes, particularly the one for Oatmeal, Walnut and Dried Plum Cookies. This recipe has inspired scads of iterations involving dried apricots, cherries, prunes, chocolate chips, even some white chocolate chips one day when I lost my mind. They were in a jar labeled “Blind Mole Eyes,” leftover from when my husband redid the pantry ala Harry Potter. Use a light hand with the Blind Mole Eyes because they are all wax and sugar (a combo I am not necessarily opposed to in moderation, see: candy corn). Wait! These cookies would be really good with candy corn, or as I call them, Baby Basilisk Fangs with Tartar.
This time I made them with cherries and sesame-crusted almonds from Trader Joe’s. Regular almonds are fine but these were really yummy. You can replace some of the oats with shredded, unsweetened coconut. Silverstone’s original calls for safflower oil and quick cooking oats, neither of which I see the need for when I can use regular oats and coconut oil. This is a highly flexible recipe as long as you keep certain expectations in check. By that I mean, the expectation that dough will feel any obligation to stick to surrounding dough in anything resembling a clump, or, once baked, a cookie. The day before my hike I made these in bars. I was able to press them down into the pan a bit for greater cohesion, but not much greater. Lacking the gluey properties of egg means you just must adjust. Anyway, bars are quicker to make than cookies.
My Kind of Bar
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (omit if using sesame-crusted almonds, as they are sweetened)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon molasses
1/4 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup chopped almonds or other nuts
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the syrup, oil, vanilla extract and molasses. Add the wets to the dries and stir to combine. Fold in the dried fruits and nuts.
Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish and press dough into it. Bake for 15 minutes but know that it may take longer, depending on the whims of your oven.
Savor these somewhere off the beaten path. No you really shouldn’t go off the trail, that’s bad form, but still: savor these somewhere without cell reception.
P.S. Let me know what you think of marycake’s new look! I am speaking of my blog because I still look the same.