Friends, the holiday season is upon us! Have you noticed?
Christmas music has begun to play in the stores, new seasonal drinks are now available at Starbucks and the like (Peppermint Mochas!), and every evening when Bella and I get out for a walk, there are lights twinkling inside and outside of all the houses. (Oh, and it’s also dark by 4:30pm, hence the craptastic photos. Sorry friends, I couldn’t wait to share this recipe!) I love this time of year, but I must say, it really has creeped up on me this time around. Christmas is merely a few weeks away!
Every year when December hits, I find myself scrambling to bake Christmas goodies, get my shopping done, and partake in fun holiday activities. Sometimes I am scrambling so much that I forget to take a breath and enjoy it all. And really, the main reason I am so in love with this time of year is that there is practically a standing excuse to gather together with friends and family to celebrate. There is something purely magical about coming together, eating delicious food, and toasting to the season with those people that bring joy to your heart. Call me a cheeseball, but I just luuuurrrrrve it.
On my bucket list for this holiday season:
- Go on a sleigh ride. I don’t know how I’m going to make this happen, but I’m sure gonna try! Anyone got a horse I could borrow? And a sleigh?
- Make a gingerbread house. Even though gingerbread houses never seem to get eaten (who wants to eat all that candy and cookie business after it’s been gathering dust for weeks?!), the process is so darn fun! And by process I mean putting more candy in your mouth than you put on the house. Magical.
- Watch one Christmas movie every week from now until Christmas. Top on the list – Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and It’s a Wonderful Life (which I’ve never seen before – how?!)
- Fill a huge thermos with hot chocolate and Bailey’s, get a group of my favorite people together, and go tobogganing.
- Learn how to play an easy Christmas tune on the guitar. A party ain’t a party without a sing-a-long.
- Donate to those in need. I am very inspired by this.
…to name a few. What are some of the activities on your holiday bucket list?
The holiday parties have begun. Time to get my arse in gear. But in all of this busy-ness, one cannot forget to eat! No problemo, I’ve got you covered with a dense and energy-packed granola bar that you can grab for a quick breakfast or snack on the run. I have been searching for ages for the perfect granola bar recipe. One that is chewy, not too sweet, and somewhat healthy. The original recipe (taken from Whitewater Cooks) uses corn syrup, but I substituted brown rice syrup with great results. I’d really like to find a way to cut down a bit on the butter and sugar, but for now, it will do. This recipe makes a rather large batch, but they freeze very well once cut and put into an airtight container. I have also cut the recipe in half without issue – just use a smaller cookie sheet.
Feel free to change these up by adding your favorite mix-ins. I definitely recommend including the sesame seeds as they add a delicious crunch to these chewy bars. Any kind of dried fruit can be subbed in for the raisins, and some dark chocolate chips would take them to a whole other level.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the balsam friends.
Chewy Granola Bars (slightly adapted from Whitewater Cooks)
Makes 24 very generous bars.
1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 ½ TBSP. vanilla
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup brown rice syrup
6 cups large flake oats
1 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
2 cups dried fruit/chocolate
Lightly toast the coconut, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds in a skillet over medium heat, then set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add in the brown rice syrup and mix, and then add the remaining ingredients and stir by hand.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a large (ie. 12 x 18 inch) cookie sheet with parchment paper and press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown around the perimeter and just set in the centre. Let cool slightly and then cut into bars. Freeze if the bars will not be consumed within a few days.