This may seem a strange thing to say, the day before the nation’s biggest food holiday, especially one in which I’ll be doing the cooking, but here it is: I’m not really one for huge meals.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. It’s right up there with Easter as my favorite holiday. Every end of November, I love that we have a specific, routine reminder to stop and be grateful for all we’ve been given, and of course part of that is the table spread with turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and green been casserole and rolls and Jell-O molds and pies. But, if I were to offer one small complaint with this holiday, it is this: the indulgence of eating all those good things—and so much of them—at one, long, stuffing-yourself-until-your-pants-don’t-fit sitting. I’d much prefer to graze all day, and in fact, that’s what I do.
In my family, at Thanksgiving, we make more turkey than we need, so we can have sandwiches for a week after. We save all the sides and have entire meals, days later, of exactly the same thing. And a few years ago, when my then-boyfriend came to meet my family the day after The Big Thursday, we re-created the entire spread, as fully as if it had been the real deal.
One day of feasting becomes a week or more of quality grazing, and that’s exactly how I like it.
So anyway, this year, you could blame my lack of worry on last year’s relative success, as now I plan to pull everything together as the day unfolds, without a single to-do list or written strategy at my side. Or you could thank my parents, who paid for all the groceries and my mom who simply asked for a list and went and bought everything. You could say it’s because we’re staying in Illinois instead of transporting all kitchen tools and food up to the family cabin in Wisconsin like we did last year. But the truth is probably even simpler: I’m not worried about Thanksgiving because I’ve had my mind fixed on other things, things like trying new Brussels sprouts, making faux trail mixes of hazelnuts and chocolate, eating bowls of scalloped tomatoes for dinner, before snacks of clementines and then cookies with apple cider. You could see the pattern in my eating and rightly conclude: this girl’s got her mind on grazing, even at Thanksgiving, so when everyone’s talking turkey, she’s eating granola bars.
I made these granola bars Saturday, after coming home from brunch and antiquing (yes, more! antiquing!) and before heading to my friend Jackie’s house for dinner and a movie. I didn’t want a whole meal; I didn’t want a dessert; I wanted something to snack on. These were the perfect solution.
Gooey and slightly sticky, filled with sweetness from the honey, crunchiness from the almonds and heartiness from the oats, these bars have been a quick breakfast, an afternoon snack, something to nibble on before bed. And Thursday morning, while I’m sticking turkeys in the oven like people around the country are doing, you can bet these bars will be there, too, just as they should be.
Happy birthday, Dad! It’s so fitting that Dad’s birthday is always near (sometimes on) Thanksgiving because he is one of the people I am most thankful for. Here’s what I wrote about him a year ago today, if you want a small taste of what I love about him.
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Homemade Granola Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-by-12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
Toss the oats, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oats mixture. Add the raisins, currants and chocolate chips and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares (it helps them stick together better to go in the fridge for an hour or so). Serve at room temperature.