This is the last week of public school for kids in the Yakima Valley. My kids have slogged along, some days better than others, enduring a brand new home-school teacher who is way out of her element. We are finishing up the last of our task lists and beginning to organize and purge the massive amount of school supplies gathering in piles around the house. It would be an understatement to say we are all ready for a break.
Typically we would kick off summer with a backyard barbecue and compile a giant bucket list of fun activities to do all summer long. Obviously that list is going to look very different this year, but I’m determined to find some fun in the midst of what is most definitely a challenging and stressful season.
We’ve spent a good chunk of time this spring up at Rocky Top, the mountain biking trail system near Anderson Rock. My boys love riding their bikes on the trails and even our 8-month-old Lab puppy has gotten some good exercise running alongside the bikes. I think we’ll find ourselves up there even more frequently now that our days are wide open. We are making our list of hikes for the summer, using the Washington Trails Association website (www.wta.org) to find just the right spots for us. But mostly we’re preparing to hunker down a little longer at home. We bake and craft more than ever before, and it’s been a fun endeavor to get the kids involved in the kitchen.
The kids mostly just want to make desserts, so we’ve been experimenting with recipes that include a healthier list of ingredients than the typical chocolate chip cookie recipe. We’ve tried grain-free banana bread and avocado brownies, along with a few disasters that I won’t mention. But these Twix bars were a home run. They don’t actually taste like a Twix bar you would buy at the store, but they are sweet, decadent and completely delicious. I love that they feel like a really special dessert but are easy enough to involve the kids in the process. Even better, the recipe is full of good-for-you ingredients that actually taste amazing.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
Homemade Vegan Twix Bars
Recipe adapted from “Half Baked Harvest”
1 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup almond flour/meal
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more for topping
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup canned full fat coconut milk, using only the coconut cream, no water
2 tablespoons almond or cashew butter
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 inch baking dish with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the shredded coconut, almond flour, coconut oil, honey, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and salt until combined. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Transfer to the oven and bake 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden and toasted. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup and coconut cream and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil 12-15 minutes or until thickened to a caramel-like sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond butter and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Let the mix cool slightly, then pour over the coconut base layer. Transfer to the freezer, freeze 30 minutes, until firm.
Melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave until melted and smooth. Let cool 10 minutes. Cut bars into 16 pieces. Cover/dip each bar in chocolate, returning the bars to the freezer for an additional 5 minutes to let the chocolate set. Store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.