Peanut Butter: The Staple of Life

“Peanut butter.”

My husband and I were holding hands as we strolled through the hotel lobby. A small A-board was positioned in the entry way to guide hotel guests to an event on one of the upper floors. As my husband and I approached the board, we unlocked our joined hands and stepped apart briefly to avoid taking out the signage.

“Peanut butter,” I said. It’s a simple phrase I utter every time something comes between us while we are walking. Sometimes it is another pedestrian. Often times it’s a sign or a pole. It’s what comes between us like spread between two pieces of bread that ultimately get smooshed together – stronger than before.

Peanut butter.

The two of us have had a lot of peanut butter in our lives. He has been laid out with a horrible cold and hacking cough for about ten days. This resulted in low energy and a deep need to hibernate during one of the busiest times of the year. Not to mention, he’s trying to do a few home fix-it projects on cold medicine.

I have been working long hours, at company holiday gatherings, cleaning the suite for my visiting mother and prepping to move from one job into another . . . again, during the busiest time of the year. 

My husband and I have come together rather infrequently. Our topics of conversations have centered around whether or not the cat has been fed today or if the mail has been retrieved.

That came to an end when we packed up the car and headed out on the road to our holiday destination. The holiday craziness was done. We didn’t have to vaccuum up cat hair. I wasn’t preheating the oven at o-dark:thirty to bake cookies. He wasn’t drilling into our concrete stairs to fix an outdoor lighting situation.

Just my husband and I in the car with holiday tunes. Connecting. Back together.

Peanut butter.

We were pulled apart, disconnected but have comeback together after our lives have pulled us apart. 

And maybe that’s the key staple to life. It’s not what pulls us apart that matters in the long run — but the coming back together after the obstacle has passed. 

Ditch the Packaging: Homemade Granola Bars

DIY Homemade Granola Bars

Product packaging is one of the major sources of waste paper and plastics. According to EarthWorks Groups, it accounts for approximately one-third of all the garbage Americans send to landfills.  I recycle, buy what I need and resist the urge to give in to my occasional bout of the “I wants”.  It’s not that I am a “tree hugger” or even consider myself to be an environmentalist. Honestly, I’m more of a minimalist. Or perhaps I’m lazy — more stuff equals more dusting.

It wasn’t until my husband started working from our home office that I realized how much moola we funneled into single-use packaging like a box of granola bars. Each serving came in its own wrapper and then a larger container to keep them all together. While cookies aren’t individually wrapped, I rarely by them in the store because homemade clearly wins the taste test.

Homemade Granola BarsAnd that’s when I had the thought . . . “I can make that.”

While I regularly make my own granola, I have only tried to make the bars from scratch once with less than stellar results.  I don’t think I pressed them firmly into the pan for they just fell apart and, in the end, made for better granola — no bars.

This time around, I used a recipe I found years ago but never tried from the Mother Earth News website. Not only was it easy to follow, but my effort resulted in actual bars. The recipe also offers alternatives and ways to switch up the recipe.

For our version, I added peanut butter and cinnamon. Since I didn’t have sunflower seeds, I used pumpkin seeds. And the role of wheat germ was played by wheat bran — but that was due to a bit of confusion on the cook’s part. All in all, it turned out mighty fine.

Baking your own granola bars means they are a bit healthier without all the preservatives. They help the environment by saving on packaging. But there is one other hidden benefit — they are super-flexible. You want peanut butter ones? Simply add 1/2 cup of PB during the melting of the butter phase.  Don’t have almonds but have peanuts? Add them in. Don’t have enough sunflower seeds? Add what you have.  I call them the “clean out the cupboards” type of recipe — just toss in what you have. It’ll be perfect.