Every family has their vacation traditions.
There are those two weeks in late August where the old Bronco is packed up to it’s sturdy if not slightly rusted brim, trunk nearly bursting with towels and folding chairs and the stuffed animals that just can’t be left behind. Bikes are strapped precariously to the back, the cause for checking the traveled highway every hour or so, making certain there are no two-wheeled casualties.
The drive is always unthinkably long. The distances covered seem to grow exponentially to the rate at which your sibling’s hair pulling and screechy sing-alongs increase. You know the ones.
For my family, the drive was always to Maine. Interstate 495 North was, to me as a child, vaguely akin to Sunday mass: it dragged on for much too long, exhausting all potential excitement within the first few minutes. It was cramped. I always needed to stretch my legs.
My family vacations always held the promise of good snacks, though, something to make the ride a little less, well, long. We had this trail mix, called Gorp if you’re my Dad, which seemed to appear only on road trips. It almost became a Pavlovian response of a kind. Gorp: Maine. Gorp: road trip. Gorp: endless expanses of highway.
Not surprisingly, I am and always have been a firm believer in good snacks when traveling. Which is why, last week, I made a bunch of them for Katherin as she left for a two week cross-country road trip. And here I thought 495 was endless.
Once you’ve made these, it’s advisable to drive somewhere. (It is what they’re meant for, after all.) A spontaneous road trip, if you’re into that. Hopefully they’ll make the drive until you get to wherever you’re going a bit more bearable.
Road Trip Granola Bars
Note: I know I’ve given you a recipe on here for granola before, but these are different. Think of them as granola’s more convenient, travel-friendly cousin. The recipe below is also highly adaptable – feel free to substitute any nuts and dried fruit, really, maybe even crystallized ginger if you’re feeling wild.
Oh, and also, keeping these cold works best to keep them together. I stashed them in the fridge until I was ready to give them away.
2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup flaxseed
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2/3 cup honey
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cup dried fruit, or a mix of dried fruit (I used chopped apricots, and two kinds of raisins)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter an 8×12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and sunflower seeds 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 and stir in the wheat germ and the flax. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
While the mixture is still warm, stir in the honey, vanilla and salt until the mixture is well coated, then the dried fruit. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and press it in until the mixture is packed as tightly as possible. Note: this will be annoying. And messy. And it will take a little while – just go until you feel like you can’t press anymore. The payoff will make it worth it.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares with a serrated knife.