One of the questions I get most these days is how my cooking has changed now that Bernie is around. The answer is that I have a whole new appreciation for quick one-bowl recipes, recipes that require minimal chopping or actual heating, and anything that can sit nicely and well-behaved for 10 minutes if at any point I need to drop it and feed Bern. This is because, unless Bernie is having Grandma or nanny time, she is most likely attached to me. Her bouncer and play pads are cool and stuff but she is often over them after like five minutes so I have to use that time strategically and schedule it for the 10 seconds when I need to put something in the oven or chop up an onion. Or another scenario is that I plan to do all of my vegetable chopping for the next few days while she’s napping so that when she’s awake and on me, I can sail through salad assembly without the use of a knife.
Logistics aside, cooking has also gotten way more exciting because have you ever seen a baby smell a piece of freshly baked pita for the very first time?! Or stick her face in a pluche of basil for the first time?? The facial expressions are solid gold. I also sometimes try to explain everything I’m doing to her, which kills two birds with one stone: I can rehearse my Girl Meets Farm lines and also encourage her communication development beyond singing Baby Beluga over and over.
Some other things I’ve learned include that the sounds of the stand mixer and blender are soothing to her, the site of the water running is fascinating to her, if she’s ever a little fussy I can step outside to get some herbs from the garden and that immediately calms her down, and that she wants to hold anything that has a crunchy wrapper. So if I need to carry a lot of things from the fridge to the counter, I can put the bag of spinach in her hand while I carry the lemon and parmesan, and 50% of the time the spinach will actually make it to the counter!
If this all sounds fine and dandy, trust me, it was a learning curve! Remember the first thing I baked after Bernie was born? Making those cakes required 5,000 breaks, hours and hours, and I still had to forego my obsessive desire for perfect ganache drips. Which is fine. This is still one of my favorite cake photos ever. But slowly I learned this new way of doing things and I’ll continue to learn, especially as Bernie becomes old enough to help in the kitchen (or to decide that she wants nothing to do with helping in the kitchen)!
One of my faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorite pieces of baby gear during this adjustment to life with Bernie has been my Solly Wrap. I’ve been looking forward to this partnership with them for forever because, well, if you follow me on Instagram you know that she practically lives in it. For her first few months, it was her guaranteed happy place. I wouldn’t leave the house without it because if ever she woke up in her stroller a little cranky, I knew that I could put her in the wrap and calm her right down (even when she wasn’t in it, I’d wear it on me to the grocery store so that I could plop her in it at a moment’s notice). For a while during maternity leave, I would go walking with her at the gym every single day and she would nap the whole time while I listened to Unorthodox. I loved those afternoons sooo much. And then where was she when I made my first postpartum loaf of challah? In her wrap.
Once we discovered this wrap, time in the kitchen got so much smoother and more enjoyable for both of us! I just love having her on me and she loves it too. I honestly can’t sing enough praises about this thing. It’s become my new go-to gift for new parent fronds.
So today I’m sharing a recipe that I have made countless times with Bernie in her wrap. It’s a one-bowl, lightning fast recipe for granola bars that can be made with whatever nut or seed butters, dried fruit or nuts, chocolates, seeds, and other mix-ins that you have on hand. And they’ve got oats and flax to aid in lactation! All of the ingredients are easy to keep in your pantry for whenever you get a free moment to throw these together, and these bars keep for a while in the fridge or freezer. They’re nutty, chewy, filling, and perfectly sweet. I’ve eaten so many of these and Eggboy has too! (Think he’s started lactating? Lol) The only steps I obviously don’t do while Bernie is in her wrap are putting them in and taking them out of the oven and then chopping them into bars. But everything else is wildly easy and after making these one or two times you’ll probably memorize the ingredient amounts. And by the way, this recipe is page one of her cookbook.
My favorite combos are: cashew butter + dried apricots, almond butter + a broken up white chocolate bar, tahini + roasted pistachios + crumbled marzipan or halva, and peanut butter + dark chocolate. For these pictures I couldn’t decide, so I added all of the nuts! And candy coated chocolates.
So for all of the new parents out there who just want to bake a darn thing, this one is for you!!
Choose Your Own Adventure Granola Bars
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed dairy milk or sweetened condensed coconut milk
1/2 c (128g) unsweetened nut or seed butter (I love cashew butter, almond butter, and tahini the best!)
1 tb vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 1/2 c (280g) quick cooking oats
3 tb (45g) flax seeds, or a mix of different seeds (chia, millet, sunflower, etc)
1 c (112g) roasted salted nuts
3/4 c (120g) dark chocolate chips or candy coated chocolates
Dried fruits, optional
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line an 8” x 8” baking dish with enough parchment paper so that it comes up the sides and hangs over by 1”.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the condensed milk, nut or seed butter, vanilla, and salt. Add the oats, seeds, and nuts* and mix to combine.
*Alternatively, you can add the nuts in the next step by pressing them into the top of the granola bars when you add the chocolate chips. This is what’s pictured and it’s just a different lewk!
Scrape into the baking dish and spread it out evenly. Press the chocolate chips and dried fruits (if using) into the top. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to a rack to cool completely. Chop into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a few months.