Following blogs for years, I wondered why folks walk away from their blog pulpit. Having not-so-recently stepped away for longer than I care to think about, I now get it.
All of us lead busy off-line lives with family, friends, jobs. But what really tripped me up, I suspect, was boredom. At the end of the day, after dealing with aforementioned family life and all that accompanies, I lacked energy to reach out to the blogosphere. I wanted to enjoy my food, but not necessarily write about it.
And while I can’t say that sentiment has changed much — my kids are still (relatively) young and needy and I still have work responsibilities — I feel strongly enough about the series I’ve started here to keep on keeping on.
Writing up Great-aunt Helen’s recipes is important to me. It’s a chance to trumpet what Helen has come to mean to me as I look back at her extraordinary life. Ironically, Helen would not call her life extraordinary. Yet when we peer through the current lens of what it is to be a strong, independent woman, it’s clear that Helen had this pegged long before most folks caught on.
Quite possibly, Helen would think this tribute rubbish. Or not, we’ll never know as she passed away more than a decade ago. But her recipes live on in the few boxes and files I inherited. It’s these recipes I’ve been slowly working through and you can read more about this project here. (Please do as the background helps color these posts.) As well, there’s a tab up top that links you to more.
Moving on, then. I blindly selected this recipe from one of Helen’s boxes as it seemed a simple snack to make for my family. It also presented mystery: Blat burg? What the what? Even after googling, I’m no closer to extracting any sort of meaning from its title. And Sarah Huber? I’ve no idea. As well, there was challenge: What size cereal boxes? Are Post Toasties still available? Soft ball stage? Long, flat pan?Questions abound, but I figured I’d figure it out. Today’s cereal boxes are surely larger than in Helen’s time, so I guessed on amounts (6 cups corn flakes, 4 cups rice krispies). Those Post Toasties? Sadly, discontinued. Turns out soft ball stage is 235ºF (you can also drop small amounts of syrup in cold water to see what sort of ball forms). And a sprayed 15x10x1-inch pan did the trick.The recipe card’s “cut when cold,” seemed a directive to refrigerate the bars though I wondered if they would set up at room temperature. Turns out they do not. A proper chill made for good slicing in the end.Flavorwise, I used honey instead of corn syrup. Should you lean toward more neutral flavors, stick with the corn syrup or possibly give agave a try. Using what I had on hand meant unsalted peanuts and the missing salt would have helped balance flavors. My oldest daughter suggested sprinkling a bit of kosher salt over the finished bars and she was spot on.The popularity of protein bars, energy bars, etc gives this old-school recipe a certain relevance. Using other nuts, seeds, and dried fruits would improve nutrition further. Possibly Helen made these treats to enjoy on her frequent camping trips and hikes.
No matter when Helen enjoyed these bars, she would have continued forging ahead with her many projects. Whether working the small garden in her postage-stamp size Minneapolis backyard, planting flowers in her cul-de-sac as part of a neighborhood beautification project, keeping her humble home clean and organized, working decades as a social worker at the local University, Helen kept moving forward. Perhaps she sometimes found some of what she was doing tedious, but she kept moving ahead. As I will here. Helen may be gone, but her lessons — and recipes — live on.