Pre-Trip Planning & Coconut Almond ‘KIND’ Bars, the Knock Off

Between applying for Chinese and Burmese visas, collecting all the odds bits of travel medicine and gear, we have been busy! Late last month we made a sudden decision to head to Burma/Myanmar for about 3 weeks in early December. While we’re both very excited about adding this country to the itinerary, it also requires some planning.

I made these granola bars to munch on while we ran errands.  They kept the crankiness at bay.

I tweaked this ‘Moments of Musing’ recipe to create my own granola bars – adding crystallized ginger, flax seeds, and a dash of cinnamon for some pep. The result is somewhat crumbly, but next time a quarter cup of almond butter might help to hold things together.

Coconut Almond KIND Knock Off Bars

Makes about 16 bars

2 cups raw sliced almonds, skins on

1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut

3/4 cup puffed rice cereal

1/2 cup palm sugar syrup (1/2 cup palm sugar mixed with 1/4 cup hot water) OR 1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup almond or peanut butter (optional; this makes the final product more cohesive, but I hate nut butter – so there!)

1/4 cup flax seeds (optional; for fiber and shiny hair)

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line an 8X8 glass baking dish with parchment paper, this will make removing the bars much easier.

In a large mixing bowl combine the almonds, flaked coconut, puffed rice cereal, flax seeds, crystallized ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Fold in the palm sugar syrup or honey.

Scrape the mixture into the baking dish and firmly press together. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Let cool completely before removing the hardened mass from the pan and slicing into bars. Wrap in parchment or wax paper to store. Can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.

Enjoy and stay safe during Hurricane Sandy!

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Shoes and Jamaican Beef Patties

Packing clothing for an entire year into one backpack has been an interesting challenge. We're not planning on going anywhere too frigid, but having a week's worth of clothing for weather from the low 50's (China in November) to hot (hopefully most of our trip) means weather-flexible clothing is the way to go.

This mantra has proven the most difficult when it comes to shoes. The engineer in me took over and after developing a seemingly impossible set of requirements (waterproof, lightweight, low cut, hiking tread, comfortable enough to run in), researching online for a couple hours, and taking trips to no less than 5 outdoors stores in DC, Richmond, and Connecticut, I ended up with the less than beautiful but extremely functional New Balance MO1521 GTX. Eliza on the other hand has slightly higher aesthetic standards than I, and will be bringing her running shoes for hiking and other outdoor activities, and is currently shopping for a pair of boots for walking around town and for cold weather. Eliza's quest for a lightweight, sturdy, and affordable boot brought Eliza, our friend Sara, and I to SOHO in Manhattan yesterday. Although the quest was entirely exhausting and ultimately unsuccessful, it did yield a pretty phenomenal lunch.

New Balance MO 1521 GTX

I have the tendency to wander long distances aimlessly at the hope of stumbling on a hole-in-the-wall gem for a meal. While Eliza and I sometimes can enjoy this strategy together, when tired feet and hangriness (hangry = hungry + angry) are at play, this food finding approach can cause some relationship discord. After vetoing two perfectly acceptable but not-quite-interesting-enough-for-me places during our shoe shopping marathon yesterday, the hangriness was quickly setting in. But, after passing an uber hip looking membership based coffee shop and a brand new fancy looking bakery (Houston between Thompson and Sullivan), I knew we were in the perfect neighborhood to find a real treasure!

Luck must have been in my favor yesterday, because just around the corner we found Miss Lily's Variety and Bake Shop and Melvin's Juice Box, a Jamaican lunch counter and juice bar. We walked in ahead of a food walking tour just as the tour guide told his group that this was the least busy he'd ever seen the place. So some combination of my food spidey sense and old fashion dumb luck must have really been working for us.

For anyone who has not had a Jamaican beef patty, it is a saucy, spicy stew of ground meat (usually beef, but chicken is fairly common as well) folded up and baked in a pocket of buttery yellow dough.

They're sold commonly in pizza places in New York (I doubt there is any culinary or cultural link between pizza and patties, but I'm not complaining), and are a staple snack item in most Jamaican places I've been. Unlike any patty I've had before, Ms Lily's patties contained shredded beef instead of ground meat, which made it much heartier and more textured than usual, which I really enjoyed. As always, the spicy and delicious brown sauce of the filling balanced perfectly with the rich and sweet pastry, which was moist and doughy with the slightest bit of exterior crunch.

Mostly eaten jerk chicken roti

We also ordered a jerk chicken roti, which is the West-Indian answer to the burrito: shredded jerk chicken with peas and rice, wrapped up in a thin pancake. Miss Lily's jerk was flavorful and just at the limit of my heat-tolerance and in addition to the rice and peas, the cucumber salad inside the roti was delicious and much appreciated for its cooling effect.

We exerted some self control and didn't go for the extra patty-for-the-road, but they did have free postcards, so a couple of you will be receiving the first of many post cards from our travels.

For anyone in New York now craving a beef patty, definitely check out Miss Lily's! For those of you in DC, Sweet Mango Cafe in Petworth or Negril on Georgia Avenue near Howard University were our go-to Jamaican joints in the district.