Nearly everyday our dog Pompy and I take a liesurely stroll along the dirt roads and cornfields in our neighborhood. It’s a nice ritual. Being a Border Collie, Pompy thrives on this much-needed exercise and loves being able to herd the the cows that graze in one of the nearby pastures. He runs along the electric fence fiercely hopping and barking at these big, black creatures that most certaininly are not sheep but will do in a pinch. They just look at him calmly and cooly, chewing their cud and probably wondering what this forty pound dog thinks he possibly could have on their half-ton girth.
I on the other hand am not much into herding but I like the zen of walking and the familiarity of our route. I enjoy watching how the blue of the sky changes from day to day, seeing the tracks animals leave behind, and observing the varying rocky, muddy shoreline of the dam-controlled Ompompanoosuc River. It is deeply calming to walk this same route because I always notice something different.
Yesterday I marvelled at pumpkins dotting the landscape – some big enough to win constests, some small enough to carry on a bike – and had fun kicking the crisp leaves out of my way as I strolled. Something about that whooshing, rustling sound reminds me of being a kid all puffed up in a sweater and zipped into a windbreaker heading home after school for a cup of tea. So as it inevitably will, my mind moved to food. I started imagining what I could eat and drink when I got home from this walk. Yes, a cup of tea would be perfect. But what else? Maybe it was the autumn leaves that made me think of the glass jars of crisp oats and crunchy nuts in the pantry and of whipping them into a tray of granola bars. Whatever it was, I picked up the pace and Pompy and I headed home, me eager for a nutty treat, him just always hungry for more.
Crunchy Homemade Granola Bars with Cranberries and Nuts
These granola bars taste absolutely fabulous (especially after a nice autumn walk) and are as easy to prepare as the recipe looks. All you need to do is gather your oats, nuts, coconut, and dried fruit, measure them, stir in a can of warmed condensed milk and bake for an hour. That’s it, really. No surprises – except how delicious they are and how quickly they disappear. My kids love them in their lunchboxes and they travel very well. The original recipe given to me by my friend Donna (as always, thank you Donna!) called for peanuts, but I prefer them without and instead rely on other mixed seeds.
1 396 gram can sweetened condensed milk
250 grams or 3 1/2 cups 1-minute oats (rolled oats can be used but the bars will be drier and may not cut as easily)
75 grams or 1 1/4 cups of shredded coconut
100 grams or 1 cup of sweetened, dried cranberries
250 grams or 2 1/3 cups of mixed seeds (pepitas or pumpkin seeds, unsalted sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and sliced almonds)
Preheat the oven to 130 celcius or 275 degrees farenheit. Oil a 10 x 15 inch baking sheet.
Warm the condensed milk in a small pan. Meanwhile, mix together all of the other ingredients in a medium sized bowl and add the warmed condensed milk using a wooden spoon or spatula until well stirred.
Spread the mixture in the prepared pan using your fingers or an oiled spoon or spatula.
Bake for one hour or until lightly browned, remove, let cool for 15 minutes and cut into bars. Let cool completely.