Is there anything in the world more wonderful than springtime?
It starts slow. First the wind comes. Not the wind that's howled all winter, rattling your bones and biting at my exposed limbs. This wind is different. It's kinder, though still fierce in its own way. It smells green--sharp and damp and alive. Then come several weeks of torrential rain that melts the snow but turns the streets of Brooklyn into rivers. Though on my walk to school, the hems of my jeans heavy with three inches of mud, I deplore the downpour, a part of me also rejoices. If I were three and wearing rain boots I’d jump in the puddles.
Then, without warning, the sun comes out. My backyard, once a dull brown swampy mess, is littered with white and purple crocuses pushing their noses up out of the dirt. It's a miracle. Between the 4th Avenue and Smith and 9th Street stops, children on the F train sit with their knees on the seats and their faces pressed against the windows, marveling at the changes sunshine and a few patches of green can work on the dreary Brooklyn landscape. Even the grown ups have a certain look of peace about them. There are fewer lines about their eyes, and the creases in their foreheads have been eroded from canyons into gentle valleys. I walk to school with my face turned upwards like a flower bent towards the sun, drinking in the sunlight and converting it into energy.
It only recently turned warm enough for me to bike to school in the mornings, and I still have to wear a heavy windbreaker against the early morning chill. But those forty minutes in the fresh air change everything for me. My dread for school--for my first period calculus test, for the dullness of the crowded hallways and fluorescent lighting—is offset by my excitement to be on my bike, zooming past sleepy brownstones and bleary eyed businessmen on their way to work. My bike ride, with the sharp spring breeze biting my nose and cheeks, wakes me up more than any five-minute cold showers ever could. The sun comes out in full force just as I reach the Brooklyn Bridge, unquestionably my favorite part of my morning. Because it's so early I have the bridge practically to myself. As I make my way up the bridge’s steep incline, I have to focus on merely keeping myself moving. But reaching the center of the bridge is nothing less than magical. The East River shimmers below me, not looking at all as though New Yorkers have been dumping their sewage into it for going on four hundred years, and ahead of me the sun's slanting yellow rays reflect off of the Manhattan skyline. Warm from the uphill climb, I shed my jacket and race down towards lower Manhattan, ready for the day.
I’ve been on break from school for a little more than week, and at the moment my bike ride is the only thing I’m looking forward to about going back tomorrow. I’m going to miss the freedom of nothing to do, the ability to wake up late and make an omelette for breakfast. (I rarely have time in my morning routine for anything more complicated than toast.) So I decided to make these peanut butter and raspberry granola bars today (yes, Passover is not quite over but these don’t have leavening in them so I’m going to call them an exception) so I can still enjoy something delicious in the morning. Though the bars came out softer than I would have liked them to, the raspberry jam adds a delicious freshness to them that I wouldn’t sacrifice for crunch.
Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Raspberry Granola Bars
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almonds (chopped or whole)
¼ cup of honey
¼ cup of unsweetened raspberry jam
¼ cup of peanut butter
2 tablespoons of brown sugar (or more, to taste)
the zest of one lemon
½ a cup of good dark chocolate, melted
Grease a small glass baking dish and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spread the oats and almonds in a large cookie sheet and cook for five to ten minutes. Meanwhile, melt honey, jam, peanut butter, and sugar in a heavy saucepan until thoroughly combined. Combine the mixture with the oats, almonds, and lemon zest and then press into the baking dish. Cook for 20 minutes or until the bars become hardened and brown on top.
Allow granola to cool and then drizzle with melted chocolate. Stick the dish in the refrigerator (or the freezer, if you’re as impatient as I am) until the granola and the chocolate have completely hardened. Then cut into bars and store in the fridge.