Last week I was staying in a small, one-room cabana on the beach in Tulum, Mexico. Sand surrounded the cabana so a short path had been dug out to the door. Inside, everything was a warm shade of white: the walls, the wooden bed frame, the sheets and pillowcases, even the mosquito net draped over the bed. A bright green blanket was the only exception.
Each night I fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach and wind rustling through the palm trees. By morning a pile of sand had collected on the floor, swept under the door by the wind, and I woke up to the chirping of birds and sun pouring in through the window.
Some mornings I ran on the beach. Running barefoot in the wet sand as cool waves licked my feet. Other days I woke up and read on the beach as the sun rose in the sky. When our stomachs began to grumble for breakfast my family walked a little ways down the beach to a rustic Italian restaurant where the menu was painted on to a small board of wood. There were seven options and by the end of the week I had ordered each one: the giant pancakes, sliced and stacked into a tower; the egg in a hole, made with fresh eggs and their homemade bread; the toast, served in a hand carved wooden dish with nutella and jam.
On one day we took a kayaking tour on a nearby lake, on another we went snorkeling in the reefs, but most afternoons were spent resting in the sun, reading on the beach, and swimming in the ocean. When we got hungry we would find a restaurant along the beach or drive into town to eat fajitas, fresh guacamole, or my dad's favorite - ceviche, a traditional dish of seafood and vegetables marinated in lime juice.
Walking back to our cabanas each night from dinner, I was surrounded by this awe-inspiring world. The sand gently sinking beneath my feet, a breeze sweeping through my hair, the calm rhythm of the tide filling my ears, and the majestic night sky surrounding me.
In comparison these granola bars seem like a bit of a bore. Oats dotted with dried fruits and nuts seem rather insignificant next to a view of the universe in the clear night sky. Nonetheless, these granola bars were really good. I made a batch a couple days before our flight to the beautiful aforementioned place, planning to bring a few as a snack on the plane. Instead, the last granola bar was finished the night before, a late night snack as I finished packing my bags. They are chewy with a little crunch from the almonds - I might try walnuts next time for a little more crunchiness - and toasted oats. The honey made them quite sweet but it was balanced out by the tang of dried cherries and nuttiness of the oats and, well, nuts.
adapted from smitten kitchen
makes 12 bars
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2/3 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, or mix of dried fruits (I used chopped apricots and cherries)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8x12 baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
Toss the oatmeal, almonds and coconut together on a sheep pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ and the salt. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
While the mixture is still warm stir in the honey and the vanilla extract until well distributed, then add your dried fruit. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and press firmly (wet fingers and a silicon spatula work well for this) until the granola is packed as tightly as possible.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool for 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares - a serrated knife works best.
Store the granola bars in an airtight container for up to a week or two, though I doubt they will last long.