This post is very dear to my heart. I’ve been meaning to share this recipe since my last trip home, back in December. I was looking through my Grandma’s collection of recipes, which is really just an old yellow spiral notebook, stuffed fat with newspaper clippings and handwritten recipes, all tied together with butcher’s string. Most of the pages are yellowed after decades of use, with small tears and folds and my Grandma’s big lettered script. That day, I spent hours sitting in the kitchen, flipping through each page. I even found 25¢ coupons for Crisco!
The recipe is a little peek at what kitchen life was like in the past. It’s cheap and simple, a combination of classic store bought products like peanut butter, marshmallows, and Rice Krispies, thrown together to make a convenient snack or breakfast on-the-go. I found all of the ingredients, minus the butter, in just two adjacent aisles at the supermarket, and none of them had to be refrigerated (well, except for the butter… why you gotta make things so difficult, butter). The only necessary kitchen tools are a single wooden spoon, a pot, and a glass baking dish for the entire recipe, which took no more than 15 minutes to put together. It’s quite literally a recipe that anyone can make.
I get so caught up with getting fancy in the kitchen, making croissants and macarons, spending hours decorating cakes and thinking about the next crazy thing I want to attempt. I insist on buying the best (organic/free range/grass fed/non-GMO/etc.) quality butter, milk (whole, please), eggs, and produce I can find. I dream of visiting a fruit picking farm and bringing home a crate of fresh apples and strawberries. Sometimes I even wish I lived on a farm (sometimes).
I believe that what we put in our bodies shouldn’t be leadened with preservatives and mystery ingredients. Food should be real and honest, and I guess that’s why I enjoy cooking from scratch–starting at a food’s truest form and creating something delicious out of it. But I also think food, like my Grandma’s Energy Bars, can also be defined similarly. There’s another part of me that sees real food as being simple and easy to make. Where there’s no fussing with exact measurements and temperatures, or putting in hours upon hours of your time to finish a single recipe. Because most humans don’t have the time for that!
And just to make things even more confusing, I’ll say that I also believe real food is the food you grew up on. It’s whatever dish brings you back to being a child–your comfort food. It’s these recipes that never fail to make me feel all toasty inside with thoughts of home. My Grandma, my Nana, was someone very important to me, and to everyone who knew her! When my Grandpa became too sick to live at home, my parents made the decision to move in with my Grandma. In her 90s, she was as sharp as ever, picking me up from school, cooking dinner, and making time to play mahjong with her friends and weekly trips to the beauty salon. It’s funny, we moved in to take care of her, but it was really my grandma who took care of us.
Nana’s Energy Bars are a favorite of my family’s. And it’s partially because we grew up eating them, but mostly because they’re good. Think Rice Krispies Treat meets peanut butter and trail mix. It’s a great dish to make with kids. Especially when you mix the warm marshmallow mixture with the dry ingredients. My mom calls this “spider web stage”. And getting back to the idea of real food being simple and easy, another great part about this kind of recipe is it’s totally changeable. If you’re not a fan of peanuts, raisins, or apricots, you can always leave an ingredient out or substitute a few for what you like. If you want some bits of oreos or M&Ms, go for it! You really can’t go wrong here.
Nana’s Energy Bars
2 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup peanuts (omitted from the batch I used to photograph, but if you like peanuts/a good crunch–USE THEM)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup apricots, cubed
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 (10 oz.) bag of marshmallows
1. In a 8×12 inch baking dish, mix the Rice Krispies, quick oats, and peanuts. Toast on 300°F for 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and fold in the raisins and apricots. Place the baking dish back in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has been completely melted, stir in the peanut butter until fully combined. Turn off the heat and add in the marshmallows, making sure to stir constantly until the entire mixture has is smooth and well combined.
3. Pour the warm marshmallow mixture over the Rice Krispies mixture in the baking dish. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to fold the ingredients together until all the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
4. Cover the a sheet of wax paper and use your fingers or a smooth glass to press and flatten the bars out evenly. Let the energy bars cool completely. Once they have hardened slightly, use a knife to cut around the edges between the baking dish and the energy bars. I used a spatula to lift and remove the bottom of the bars from the pan.
5. Cut off the uneven edges around the slab of energy bars, then cut into individually desired sizes. Wrap them in wax paper to keep from sticking to one another and store in an air tight container.
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