Returning home from such an epic holiday, sitting here at my desk in my apartment feeling a million miles away from anything tropical, there is a part of me that wants to say I’m getting “back to reality”.  But that would be inaccurate, as I believe that the island of Kauai was absolutely the realest place I’ve ever been. What do I mean by this? Well, I have never in my life been faced with more awe-inspiring nature, powerful energies, provocative weather, and life-challenging situations. It was the biggest dose of reality I could have gotten, anywhere.

I think the thing that struck me as soon as we left the airport was how low-key the island seemed. No huge high-rise hotels, no chain restaurants, no four-lane highways. Everything was pretty quiet and chilled out. And since the single, main road that winds its way along the coast of the island never actually connects to itself, this has kept things rather simple and undeveloped. Over 90% of Kauai is inaccessible by car, so Kauai tends to attract nature lovers who appreciate a raw, untamed, untouched environment and a good hike.

The first week of our trip, we were staying on the north side of the island, which during the winter and spring seasons receives a lot of rain. So much in fact, that our plans and high hopes of hiking the Kalalau trail were dashed by flash floods and washed out footpaths. We eventually did the first section of the trek, but the river crossing was so dangerous that we strongly warned from Mother Nature to turn back. Rains were rather relentless and some days were safest spent on high ground and indoors. I have never experienced such powerful weather – it was clearly to be respected!

We eventually found ourselves on the western side of the island trying to find some dry land and sunshine. Camping out on the beach was heavenly, until one night a sandstorm drove us out of our bliss and back in our cars for shelter.

But this is beginning to sound a bit complain-y, while I was actually having a total blast. Whether I was being pummeled by life-threatening waves, unrelenting rain, sand storms, or burning sun, my time on Kauai made me feel very connected to the environment, and so very alive. I loved feeling so small, so vulnerable, and at the mercy of nature (except when it got a tad scary). It was a reality check in the best way. Life was put back into perspective again, and I remembered that I am a part of a world so much bigger and more powerful than I can even fathom. Every second of that 38-hour trip was worth every second of that life-affirming, life-connecting feeling.

So, how do these granola bars tie into anything? You can imagine with the trekking and camping we did that there were a few energy bars consumed as they were the most convenient way of getting calories into us on the trail. We did find some rather high-vibe varieties, but I knew that as soon as I got back home I would make my own full of the delicious, tropical flavours. Mango, banana, coconut and macadamias were daily fare, and these form the base for my recipe. Finding the more unusual treats like noni, ice cream bean, soursop, Surinam cherry, breadfruit, and rambutan here in Copenhagen is slightly more challenging, so I stuck to relatively common dried foods you can all get your hands on, in paradise or otherwise.

These Tropical Chewy Granola Bars are a very versatile recipe and you can make several substitutions if you are missing some ingredients or aren’t into them. I used ripe bananas as the liquid binding agent, but if you don’t like bananas, replace them with ½ cup of applesauce. You could also use 2 eggs. Instead of the dried fruit I used, feel free to change it up: dried pineapple would be great, as would dates, cranberries, cherries, or raisins. Of course this will change the flavour a great deal, but if you want to adapt the recipe to the seasons and what is available, you most certainly can do that. Replace the buckwheat with oats if desired, the honey with maple syrup, the coconut oil with butter or ghee. And if macadamia nuts are unavailable, any nut will do – almonds, pecans, or cashews would be really good in these.

Even if you won’t be hitting a trail anytime soon, these granola bars will just as well on a spring picnic, biking around the city, or just an afternoon tea computer break. Because let’s face it: that’s about the only way I’ll be enjoying them for now. No complaints.

Tropical Chewy Granola Bars
Makes 12-16 bars

2 Tbsp. chia seeds + 6 Tbsp. water
2 cups / 200g rolled oats (certified gluten-free if possible)
½ cup / 150g raw buckwheat groats
1 cup / 50g coconut flakes
¾ cup / 100g macadamia nuts, chopped
60g / 2 oz. dried banana, chopped (or Medjool dates)
60g / 2 oz. dried mango, chopped
¼ cup / 60ml coconut oil
1/3 cup / 80ml honey (or maple syrup)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp. extract)
2 very ripe bananas
½ tsp. coarse sea salt

1. In a small bowl, combine chia seeds and water to make a gel. Set aside.
2. Spread the oats, buckwheat, coconut and macadamia nuts out on a baking sheet and place in a 300°F / 150°C oven. Stir every 5 minutes or so, until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
3. While the oat mixture is toasting, make the liquid. In a small saucepan combine coconut oil, honey, and vanilla. Whisk over low-medium heat until melted and thoroughly combined.
4. In a food processor or blender, blend peeled bananas with the honey and oil mixture. Blend until smooth. Pulse in chia gel gently, just to combine>
5. In a large mixing bowl combine toasted oat mixture, sea salt, and chopped dried fruit. Pour in the liquid and stir well to combine.
6. Turn the oven up to 350°F / 175°C. Spread a large piece of parchment paper in a 8” x 8” (20 x 20 cm) baking pan, overlapping the sides. Pour the granola bar mixture into the pan and press down firmly with a spatula, especially in the corners. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and around the edges.
7. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes. To take the granola slab out of the pan, simply lift up the sides of the parchment. Place on a flat surface and cut into rectangles or squares (12-16, depending on the size). Store in a airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Best if kept cold, as this prevents the bars from crumbling.

As much it was nice to have a break from technology, I really did miss blogging and it feels good to be back in the swing of things. I have lots of good stuff up my sleeves for this season and I’m excited to share it with you all.

Lots of love from the un-tropics of Copenhagen,
Sarah B.

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