There is a voracious, fanged creature that haunts my dreams. It is insatiable and cannot be delayed or deterred in the relentless pursuit of its hapless victim: me.
Here is a little artist's rendering of the perpetrator:
|by Mark. A. Hicks|
The lunchbox is particularly fearsome because it does not work alone. Its cronies include dueling soccer games and violin lessons, meal-time dance classes and after-hours meetings. Anyone who stares down a week of three meals a day for as many people as live under their roof (let me do a rough calculation: ok, looks like every person lucky enough to have food to eat) faces a few moments in that week when What is Needed is not exactly What's On Hand.
I like to shore up my defenses on Sunday. I don't always make good on this intention, but when I do, the week seems to unfurl with a little less twitching and gasping at calorie time.
A monstrous pot of beans or black bean soup, a batch of fruit tapioca, custard or chocolate pudding--these are all Sunday money in the midweek bank. My rushed Wednesday self thanks my pajama & apron-clad Sunday self for stirring something up, and if I can siphon off a little bit of the soup or beans into a freezer container, the future Wednesday self whose Sunday pal decided to take that week off can still save herself a few steps.
I've yabbered before about Alana's car snack, a recipe for a granola bar-like item that she herself asserts is meant to be monkeyed with until it suits your niche of the marketplace. She has at least four versions of it, each with their passionate fans. I am not sure which version I started with anymore, but now I have a reliably repeatable rendition of my own that everyone around here seems to like.
An 9x13 pan of these bad boys forms the backbone of the lunchbox attack plan. Jimmy with it until you get it just how you like it, too.
1 stick of butter, or 1/2 c coconut oil
3/4 c honey (oil your measuring cup first)
2 c rolled oats
1 c crisp rice cereal (or you could use puffs, or cornflakes)
1/4 c oat bran
1/4 c flax meal
1/2 c almond meal
fat pinch of salt
a handful of dried apricots, chopped (or dried cranberries, or whatever you like)
about 3/4 c of chopped or sliced or slivered nuts--I like a combination of almonds and pecans
3 or 4 pieces of crystallized ginger, minced
about half a cup of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (*see the note below)
Heat the oven to 350 and tear off a piece of parchment that will line your 9 x 13 pan.
Melt the butter (hang on to that butter wrapper though--don't throw it out) and the honey together in a large pot, stirring all the while. Let it come to a nice boil over medium heat, then remove from the stove.
Add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Then add the fruits and nuts and mix again. *If you are adding chocolate, either be at peace with the fact that adding it now means it will melt, or alternatively be at peace with letting the mixture cool for about fifteen minutes before you add it. You can probably guess how my hamster-brain works out the math here, when we do the chocolate variation.
Glop the mess onto the parchment in the pan. Use a spatula to pat it out as smoothly as you can, and then reach for that butter wrapper and really whomp on it to tamp it down. Still do not throw away the butter wrapper.
Bake for about twenty minutes, until it is a lovely golden, toasty brown at the edges and the top looks solid. Set the pan on a rack and let it cool for about five minutes. Grab your trusty butter wrapper (you are old friends now) and resume the allover whomping and tamping. This greatly increases the chances that you will be able to slice these up into tidy squares. Cool down to almost room temperature in the pan, then while they are still slightly warm, use the parchment to slide the whole block onto a cutting surface. Using a large, sharp knife, portion them out into squares, and store in an airtight container, or wrap individually in wax paper.