It feels the saddest to leave somewhere right before you go.
I wrote these words in my “journal” (note on my phone) the night before we flew back to Vancouver from Toronto. In retrospect I don’t know if it is a particularly profound statement, but it completely encompassed how I was feeling in the moment, and I wrote it as some solace to myself; it won’t feel this hard once you’ve already left. The truth is, lying in bed that night, in the house I grew up in, I felt completely diminished at the thought of leaving. I kept circling back to the same question: why would I leave the place that holds everyone I love? After ten days of living with my family, seeing my closest friends, and finding comfort in the city I know so well it seemed counterintuitive to fly away to this other place I now called “home.” I was close to tears and couldn’t grapple with the gaping hole that I felt expanding within me. And then, of course, I fell asleep, woke up, flew back to Vancouver, and was fine. These things are always hardest to deal with right before sleep.
I’ve been thinking a lot about place recently. What does it mean to call somewhere home?
There’s the literal home I grew up in, on our street near the lake, across from the hospital. Or later on the two homes I grew to love, one with each of my parents and my brother. And then a new home – moving away for school – which never felt quite as solidly like home but nonetheless allowed me to find my own footing in the world and curate a space for myself amidst the confusion of beginning adulthood. And now here in Vancouver, beside the ocean and mountains.
There’s always been another sense of home though. One that lives less physically in this world and that I sometimes lose sight of when I forget to look. This home began in the pages of books and filtered out into my childhood imaginings. It followed me into photographs and out onto pages of poetry. It’s the world I see myself living in, the picture in my mind where I feel completely and utterly settled. In some ways it is so completely personal that I can’t put it into words. I don’t want to cheapen the importance of it by writing clichés or borrowed images. However I do want to let you see a glimpse: a small house by the sea, wild grasses and watercolour sky, wood burning stove curling its smoke into nothingness. There’s a small room, patchwork quilts and the kind of coziness that comes from knowing you are safe. It smells soft and salty and warm. It’s the place I go to when my mind is quiet.
I think we all have a place like this. Where we reside in our most naked selves. It doesn’t always look the same or resemble even this world we live in, but when I get there I know that I am me.
After all that wordiness you probably need something sweet. Something simple yet delicious. I got you.
If it wasn’t completely ridiculous to do so I would call these Dream Bars. But I am not one to make sweeping statements (heh).
They simply are dreamy though. No other way to say it. There’s a base of crumbly, sweet & salty oats topped with the most luscious layer of peanut butter chocolate goodness. It literally melts in your mouth and satisfies your whole being.
Think of them like a mix between a toffee bar and a chocolate truffle. The oat/date base has those caramel-y notes and the top layer really does feel like the texture of a decadent truffle.
Sebastian told me that these are his favourite thing I have ever made.
So! You should probably start adding the ingredients to your shopping list (although you might already have most of them in your cupboards). If you make them take a pic and tag me @spiceandsprout. I love seeing the recipes you make!
Salted Peanut Butter Chocolate Oat Bars
Makes 8-12 bars (depending on how you cut them)
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 15 gooey dates, pitted
- 1/3 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate Peanut Butter Topping
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup cacao powder
- 1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt + more for topping
- 1/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan by lining it with parchment paper (this is essential or else you won’t be able to get the bars out of the pan). You can really use any size pan, the thickness of the bars will just vary.
Add the dates to a food processor and pulse until they form a creamy, smooth paste. They’ll all bunch up into a ball first and roll around the food processor, but if you leave it for another minute or so it will smooth out. Next add in the oats, shredded coconut, coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt. Pulse until a sticky dough forms. It should hold when pinched between two fingers. Press the dough into the parchment lined pan and evenly distribute. If you find the dough too sticky to work with try wetting your fingers and then pressing it into the pan. This should make it easier. Place the pan into the freezer while you make the next layer.
To make the peanut butter chocolate layer add the coconut oil, cacao powder, peanut butter, maple syrup, and 1/4 tsp salt to a small pot over medium heat. Stir frequently as the coconut oil melts and then whisk together to form a smooth, melted chocolate consistency. Remove from heat.
Pour the peanut butter chocolate over the oat layer in the loaf pan. Smooth with a spatula. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes and then sprinkle the chopped peanuts and a pinch of salt on top. Freeze for at least 40 minutes and then cut into bars. They can be stored in the fridge or the freezer in an airtight container.