It took some minute version of the flu to knock me out last week, so at last I would sit still, unpack, and get settled in our place. Or, settled enough that when I wake up each morning, I find myself appreciating it for all of its little special bits (instead of cursing the pile of boxes, unkept piles of things that need to find a home, or massive projects yet to be undertaken.) I love that we can see the Flatirons from the patio off of our bedroom, the way that Derek’s favorite red leather chair in the guest room makes that space the most quiet place in the house. My cookbooks, recipe files, stacks of notes and little inspirations has finally found a home in a glossy little cabinet in the living room, and nearby is the little olive tree that has to live inside during the winter. The singing bowls I brought back from Cambodia live there too, and the wooden vases from Fiji. I love the strong, serene shadows that this corner casts in the morning light, when the sun comes in through the evergreens of the yard and illuminates the shapes of all of these things. The travel books and journals that I gathered while living in Europe have come to rest neatly in the console on the second floor. I think I’m the only one in the house that knows all the experiences that the pages hold, and I’ve found myself gracing the smooth dark wood with my fingertips each time I pass by en route to the dressing room. The kitchen still has one massive redesign project looming in the distance, but the open shelves are finished, sanded and painted and our dinnerware just looks so pretty perched inside. The pastry + pantry space that Derek built for me is my favorite part of the main level and its butcher block countertop is just begging for croissants to be rolled over it. The antique tea set, and hand-thrown pottery I collected in Japan is on display above this space, along with the mortar + pestle collection I gathered in South America. I love that these things are close to me as I work. Instead of feeling anxious about getting settled, fixing things NOW as I am wont to do, I feel almost excited with getting to know this little house corner by corner, making it our own bit by bit; first by watching us fill it with who we are, how we live, and then watching how that life will naturally fill it up (instead of me struggling to piece it together, meaninglessly via mail order.)
I know this sounds strange, but I don’t feel as if I have to do any work to make this place feel like home. The things that have been picked up along our travels, our moving – across the world and back again – are few, and small actually. But these pieces are meaningful, and its sometimes strange to see them out of their old context, in permanency. This house is decorated and furnished by our history. Literally, in this new space, (much like moving back to Boulder itself,) all of our old experiences/places/things are brand new again. It’s the most refreshing comfort.
And so, obsessive-compulsive me finally feels the freedom of getting acquainted with the kitchen, with my workflow here. What are the intricacies of the new oven? Where is the best place to work chocolate? I’m settling into the routines of measuring out breakfast ingredients the night before so I can bake the first thing in the morning before the boys wake up. Just last night, I sat down with one of those big stacks of cookbooks and notes that have glared at me since the move was complete, and picked through all the things I want to make RIGHT NOW and tomorrow, next week, and before long. As I type, I can see the colorful little flags of inspiration peeking at me from the stack of to-make items on the table nearby. In the coming weeks, I’ll get to all of it. But for now, just as with those artifacts of our experience that are making this new house a home, I’m taking solace in the tried and true, the trusty favorites; this easy, healthy treat is the tops of that list.
This is actually a reprint of a recipe that I posted back in 2009, when I was still in culinary school and I was just starting to find my voice as a writer and chef. While I make these Almond Butter Bars on a regular rotation, I don’t often read the text that accompanies them and it was so funny to finally do so when I peeked back for the recipe to make the bars for a festive little gathering of friends last week. The commentary about the bars was something funny; basically me gushing about “treats that look like treats but are really healthy in disguise.” I can’t imagine writing something like that now, but that’s because I’ve come to take a completely different stance as a chef/athlete/eater in these past years. There isn’t anything I won’t eat, all of it in moderation, and you should cook/make/bake something because it tastes good and makes your body feel good. If you happen to be a vegan, or follow gluten-free or paleo diets this recipe is right up your alley but, if you just like the sound of a slice-it-yourself-almond-butter-cup, this one is for you.
So – this recipe. It’s so easy, you could do it with your eyes closed so long as you have a food processor or VitaMix. Everything goes into the bowl of the processor, you pulse it, press it into a pan, let it firm up in the fridge, slice and enjoy. I like to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge (because I like my almond butter bars, and my peanut butter cups, nice and cold) and they will last you a couple of weeks if you do the same. I like to spread a thin layer of dark chocolate over the top, this is optional of course. If you opt for the chocolate, I suggest slicing them into squares once the chocolate is set but not solid, to prevent splintering. They’ll be delicious no matter what. Depending on where you live in the world, you might find that these get crumbly when you store them in the fridge and, if so, you might want to add an extra couple of tablespoons of coconut oil/and or sweetener to make them a bit more sticky with the next batch. Or you might decide that instead of almonds you like pecans, or cashews, or peanuts or…..this is another one of those recipes that I highly encourage making your own.
I’ve been known to snack on these with coffee before an early morning bike ride, and substitute them for decadent dessert when I’m in training. They also make for great snacks for little people cut into small pieces, or for afternoon snacks in lieu of a pre-packaged bar. All of that said, I can’t wait to hear how you’re enjoying, and where you’re enjoying this favorite recipe of mine. I look forward to my old becoming your new favorite, too. – xo L
- 2 cups raw almonds
- 1/2 cup finely ground flax meal
- 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/2 cup unsalted creamy roasted almond butter
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, in liquid form
- 1 Tbsp honey, agave nectar, maple syrup or brown rice syrup
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup dark chocolate (65%-84% preferably, but optional, of course)
- Prepare an 8x8 inch square pan by lining it with parchment or wax paper.
- Next, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the almonds, flax meal, coconut, almond butter and salt. Pulse briefly to chop up the whole almonds. Add the coconut oil, agave, and vanilla to the mixture and pulse to form a chunky paste; be sure to break up all of those big old almonds!
- Press the mixture into the bottom of the 8x8 pan. Chill until the mixture firms up a bit.