Real Life Word Problem

Forget about two trains leaving the station and traveling toward each other. Learning to solve this kind of problem in school would have some definite real life application!

You arrive home from grocery shopping with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a 5 month old. The 2 older children have gotten carsick on the ride home. They, their hair, and their seats are fairly covered with vomit. You have frozen, but rapidly thawing, groceries in the back of the minivan, which does not have a good air conditioner. It is 77 degrees outside. The baby is screaming, because he is hungry, wet and tired. (You are bottle feeding, so nursing while you take care of other things is not possible.) In which order do you take care of things?

In my case, I am very, very thankful for my Dad, who was home and immediately stepped in to help out.It was all solved quite quickly and was just a small blip in the middle of a quite wonderful day! He unloaded groceries while I started heating a bottle and getting a bath ready. Then he hung onto Monkey Man while I threw all of the frozen groceries in the freezer and did a super quick wash down of the girls. Without his help, I would have had to leave the baby screaming and/or the girlies icky for a bit.

Even if that happened, we’d all be fine today. I’m trying to learn to laugh at these kinds of things when they happen instead of being all grouchy and overwhelmed when I know that I’ll laugh about it later anyway. Today, it worked. My Beloved called right in the middle of it, and he laughed, because he could hear the humor in my voice. How much better for Mama to take these kinds of things with a smile, even a wry one, instead of furrowed brows and a sharp word. Praying that I remember that next time!


No Bake Granola Bars

This is one of the best recipes I have discovered in a long time! Thanks to my friend Sweetie for sharing it with me! The recipe I started with is found here: Lauren’s Latest No Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars and was adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe. Sorry, no pictures here. Lauren’s tutorial is lovely, though.

This is a fantastic recipe because it is easy, fast, and tasty, but the real beauty of this recipe is the versatility! You could easily substitute several ingredients and still have a yummy granola bar that is free of some of the yucky things in store-bought snacks and so much cheaper! I think it might be an easy recipe to tweak for some allergies, but that may presumptuous of me since that’s not something that we have to deal with in my household. (And my heart goes out to those of you who do! It’s a tough road!)

If you compare Lauren’s post and mine, you can see that I made several changes. First of all, I doubled the recipe. I have a small jelly roll pan that is perfect for this size of batch. It’s easier to press it in tightly and evenly, and we haven’t had any trouble eating this amount in a few days. It’s no more work making a larger batch, and it keeps me from needing to make them every day or two. Secondly, I substituted corn syrup for the honey. This makes me a bit sad, since corn syrup is a sweetener that I would prefer not to give my kids, but to say that my Beloved doesn’t like honey is an understatement. I have to admit that the honey taste in the original was quite strong, even for me. I tried using half honey and half corn syrup, which suited me, but was still too strong for my husband. At least there are some brands of corn syrup that are HFCS free, so I can still feel reasonably okay with this substitution. I also added some other ingredients – wheat germ, ground walnuts, ground flax seed and cinnamon. The cinnamon was really helpful, since they can be a bit bland without it. I also liked the nutty flavors imparted by the other ingredients, and it’s easier to pretend these are healthy with those things thrown in, even in very small amounts.

I also doubled the chocolate chips once and loved it. Don’t hate me. No one says you have to do it. Except now that I have planted the idea in your head, it’s almost like you do. Sorry. I had trouble getting the chocolate chips to stick to the bars, and the edges were always bare, so I gave up on that and tried a couple of other methods. I sprinkled some on, then “glued” them down with a drizzle of melted chocolate chips, creating a similar look to some of the popular brands. It worked reasonably well, but they still had a tendency to leave bits of chocolate dropping onto the carpet in the wake of munching kiddos. (Right. Kiddos. Uh-huh.) I also melted the chocolate chips and just spread a thin layer all over the top. This version got the man’s vote. If it were up to me, and I was going solely for taste and not for a somewhat healthy snack, I’d probably increase the chocolate even more. Or maybe toss some cocoa in with the cooked mixture. Or Nutella. Yummmmmmmm….

But back to what I actually did:

No Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup (the original calls for honey, and I suspect other things like maple syrup would also work)
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (I plan to try this with less)
  • 4 cups quick cooking oats
  • 2 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2-4 Tablespoons walnut pieces, toasted
  • 2-4 Tablespoons flax seed
  • 2-4 Tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I don’t even measure, just eyeball it)

I started by grinding the walnuts and flaxseed in my coffee grinder, which I never use for coffee anyway. It gets kind of pasty, and I have to scrape it down a few times to get a nice even texture. Then I dump in the wheat germ, which helps to make it a bit more dry. It still clumps a bit, but just break it up the best you can. When you stir everything together, it will distribute pretty evenly.

Measure oats and cereal into a large bowl. Add cinnamon and ground nut mixture. Stir well.

Prepare pan with a light coating of cooking oil spray.

In a small saucepan, heat butter, corn syrup and sugar until boiling. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring often, to dissolve the sugar granules. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. (Don’t forget this part! I did, and it definitely makes a difference in the final result.  I’m considering adding some almond flavoring, too.) Pour over dry ingredients in bowl and stir until thoroughly coated and evenly mixed. Pour into prepared pan, pressing down firmly with hands or rubber scraper until firm and even.

Melt chocolate chips. (I do it in the microwave, half power for 30 second increments, and have never had trouble.) Drizzle over bars or spread in an even, thin layer.

Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes until firm but not hard. Cut into bars. I make mine about 3/4-1″ by 4.5″ and get about 20 bars. Refrigerate further if necessary to allow chocolate to set and bars to harden slightly.

I wrap mine individually in plastic wrap, and they have kept beautifully for 3-4 days until they were all eaten. I don’t know how long they would keep, and I’m not sure I’ll find out here, since they are a big hit with all of us, except for the one who isn’t eating solid foods yet! My mind is still spinning with the possibilities. I think substituting peanut butter for some of the butter would be delicious. I have some toffee bits just begging to be stirred into another batch. I think sunflower seeds would be lovely, and I want to try some chia seeds. Dried fruit would add sweetness and a chewier texture. Then there are butterscotch chips, or white chocolate drizzle. I could make a different version each week for months, and I’ll bet each one would be amazing!

How would you make these bars? Add something? Leave something out? Change something? Adjust for an allergy or a preference? Leave a comment with the changes you want to try, and please come back and let us know how it turned out!