I love those books you read in middle school or high school that for some particular reason you just absolutely love and have eternal good feelings about. Sometimes it doesn’t even pertain to the actual novel or content of the story, but more so what you were doing in that class while reading it, who your teacher was, which friends were there…Maybe you were in the midst of pursuing the best crush ever, furiously passing each other notes between classes for weeks on end. Perhaps it was in those weeks leading up to spring break or the end-of-school-year summer vacation, in which you could have been reading the dullest tale, but knowing that summer is around the corner of that finished title you fall head over heels for it. (I think that’s how I got through The Pearl…although I didn’t really fall head over heels for it, sorry Steinbeck.)
For me, those “Oh my God, I love that book!” books are Mrs. Gigglebelly is Coming for Tea and Great Expectations. Mrs. Gigglebelly is pretty self-explanatory as to why it’s a childhood comfort, just look at that title! But Great Expectations has its own specific comforting memory; ninth grade English class, Mrs. Fischer, April, springtime cresting into summer, the end of junior high, capri pants, summer vacation quickly approaching, eager to be in a new school in the fall, so close to officially being a ‘high-schooler’, so cool. (Yes, high school for us didn’t start till sophomore year.)
With every spring forward of the clocks, I’m reminded of this young and buzzing feeling that I first had while getting lost in the tales of Pip, Estella, and Miss. Havisham, as I meticulously counted down the days till the last day of freshman year (while donning some stupid graphic tee from Delias I’m sure).
Spring is comforting and hopeful, a full summer just ahead of you, filled with sunshine, vacations, nature, vibrancy, abundance of fruits and vegetables, picnics, long days, swimming, rosé… Spring is the Christmas Eve of summer. Dickens’ words remind me of that. I’ve reread Great Expectations throughout various springtime seasons, I find it an extremely appropriate read for times that I’ve made big transitions or been at a challenging place in my life looking for a familiar tale and familiar hopeful sprintime-y feelings.
Moving is one of those big transitions. It can be an annoying everything is up in the air phase of life. I keep looking at my kitchen pantry, dying to reorganize it and clean it out, but I know that’s ultimately pointless because in about 5 weeks, I’ll just be packing it up. I want to cut my hair, go to my dentist, and schedule an eye doctor appointment, but I feel like I should just wait till I’m settled in my new home, and find my new ‘team’ of people. I want to make plans with friends, but the growing ‘to-do’ list and stress is making me socially inept, or lazy, or both.
In a time of transition and instability, being unsure and not knowing what two months from now looks like, hell I don’t even know what this weekend looks like, I need that familiar comfort of rereading a book that brings back happy comforting memories.
Each time I read this novel, I reminisice about 9th grade me, wearing capri pants and low-top Chuck Taylor’s, along with discovering more passages to obsess over, currently it’s this…
“That was a memorable day for me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
…with each day that gets closer to uprooting my life, along with the varying degrees of comfort and discomfort, happiness and frustration, excitement and fear that I experience on a daily (or hourly) basis as of late, it’s words like this that just make it all ok…Oh, and these date bars…
Note: This recipe is a slightly altered version of Megan Gordon’s cocoa almond grain bars that I came across on her blog, A Sweet Spoonful. Her blog is lovely and so is her granola. Roast the almonds and cashews on a sheet pan in a 350°F oven. Almonds should take 8-10 minutes, cashews 5-6 or until golden and fragrant. Toast the white quinoa and millet seeds together in a dry skillet over medium heat, 4-5 minutes or until you hear popping and seeds turn golden.
More than Just Date Bars
-1/2 C. chopped almonds, roasted (roast before you chop)
-1/2 C. cashews, roasted
-2 C. pitted dates, about 35-40 dates
-1 C. unsweetened coconut flakes
-1/2 C. rolled old-fashioned oats
-1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
-1/4 C. good quality chocolate protein powder of your choice
-2 Tbsp. honey
-2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
-1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
-1/4 tsp. ground ginger
-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
-1 Tbsp. white quinoa, toasted
-1 Tbsp. millet seeds, toasted
-Line an 8-inch square baking pan with enough parchment so that it hangs over each side. Place almonds and cashews in a food processor and process until both are ground well but not to the point where they’re too fine and sandy, about 20 seconds. Pour chopped nuts into a bowl and set aside.
-Put dates in the food processor and process continuously for 1-2 minutes (depending on your dates), or until they begin to come together in one mass. Add coconut, oats, half of the chopped nut mixture, cocoa powder, protein powder, honey, coconut oil, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
-Process just until the mixture comes together. This can get a bit tricky as the dates are going to be quite sticky. About every :30 seconds of processing, turn off your machine, scrape down everything on the sides & return to processing. If it really isn’t budging much, add a teaspoon or two of coconut oil. Process for 4-5 minutes total, with breaks in between to scrape down the sides.
-If your ‘dough’ is quite stubborn coming together in the food processor, have no fear, your hands will do just the trick. Turn the mixture out onto a clean and smooth surface, swabbed with a bit more coconut oil. Add the quinoa, millet, and other half of nut mixture. Use your hands here to knead the dough and thoroughly incorporate the flakes and nuts. It shouldn’t be fully uniform, you want to see all the little bits of nuts and pieces.
-Scoop into the prepared pan. Use your hands or the back of a spatula to press down and create an even, firm layer. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or freeze for 45 minutes if in a hurry) this will help firm them up so you can cut them easily.
-When ready to slice, lift the bars right out of the pan by grabbing onto the overhanging parchment paper. Cut into small squares or triangles as I did. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 7 days, or wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Enjoy!