Seedy Sesame Almond Squares

Seedy Sesame Almond Squares | A Sweet Spoonful

Each Monday, we go to a parent’s group where we get together with 7 other couples who live in our neighborhood and compare highs and lows from the week, ask each other questions, and chat about an organized topic. I was a bit skeptical before signing up for the group, thinking maybe it’d feel like a waste of time or maybe just too difficult to attend consistently. But so far we’ve loved getting the babies together and having an excuse to get out of the house and talk to other parents who are dealing with similar issues. Last week, one of the other moms described how she’s started to feel like she’d like a little distance from her son. Her comment resonated with me although I bet it may not have with everyone: I think it’s one that we’re not really encouraged to feel or discuss at this stage in the game.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to savor every second — that it goes by so fast. To enjoy those baby snuggles all day long. And all night, too. And don’t get me wrong – I get a big ol’ kick out of hanging out with Oliver. He’s started to smile and giggle and I’ve turned into that crazy mom who is clucking and cooing in the middle of the grocery store aisle in response to his laughter. He clutches his weird toy chicken for dear life as I carry him around the house, one arm draped lazily over my shoulder. Sam’s been playing folk songs on the guitar for him, and I’ve started to read to him in the rocker, and talk him through how to make a good cup of coffee and a decent egg each morning. But there are certainly moments when I’d perhaps like to savor Oliver just a little less and, say, do something for myself. Popular sentiment or not, it’s just the truth.

Seedy Sesame Almond Squares | A Sweet Spoonful

If I think too hard about how maybe we’ve now passed the newborn stage, I become really sad because it did go by so quickly — but the reality is that I think we have. Oliver is sleeping longer, we’ve got feeding pretty under control, we’re able to cook simple meals again and I’ve been slowly handling some work tasks. Things are starting to normalize a little, but with that has come a new challenge as we both try to find that little nook of space for ourselves. And that challenge came to a head last weekend.

We had planned on driving to the Methow Valley with a few friends and were looking forward to introducing Oliver to the snow. I borrowed a tiny, puffy snowsuit for him, we researched renting snowshoes, and procured bad hot chocolate (a longtime weakness of mine). I’d made a big pot of salmon chowder and laid out the ingredients to make these bars for afternoon refueling. But Sunday morning didn’t find us in the car headed to the snow; instead it found us in separate rooms of the house, taking turns entertaining the baby and formulating a lot of questions for each other. How can you give your partner some free time and space without feeling resentful that you’re doing more? How do you then not feel guilty when taking that space or that opportunity outside of the house? Is it possible to find the time to do the things that make you really feel like you again? When working for yourself, how on earth will you ever be able to clock a full work day again? Big Questions with a capital B.

I can’t say that we’ve solved them all yet, and I also recognize they’re not unique to us. But they are new to us and as we dip each toe into the waters of parenthood while negotiating looming work obligations and the desire to see friends and do things for ourselves and as a couple, we realized that sometimes you’ve just got to stay home and hash things out.

Seedy Sesame Almond Squares | A Sweet Spoonful

We’re learning a lot. Those of you reading this with kids know that this is just the beginning … and intuitively we do, too. What grounds us is Oliver and creating a really good, sweet life for him. Eventually showing him the snow, introducing him to bad powdered packets of hot chocolate, and taking weekend road trips. All things we now have to look forward to. Along with so much else. All while we’re savoring the moments and stealing a few for ourselves along the way.

Seedy Sesame Almond Squares | A Sweet Spoonful

I had lofty goals for these granola bars: first I wanted them to be nice and chewy with a good bit of crunch from the grains and nuts. I wanted to get away with as little sweetener as I felt I could and eek in some interesting grains. And the main goal was to really pack them with sesame flavor. Those of you who have been around here awhile know that Sam is Lebanese and we visit the Middle Eastern grocery what feels like every other week to stock up on tahini, olives, feta, good olives, pita, dates, halvah and cheap avocados. We have a huge container of tahini in the fridge, so I decided to go all out with it in these bars, and the result is a very addictive, sesame-forward snack. I decided not to call them granola bars as I always think of granola bars as being comprised largely of oats and I think the oats take a backseat to the seeds, nuts and other grains here. I hope you like them. They’d be great fuel if you find yourself headed to the snow this season. But I can also attest to their greatness while snuggled up on the couch with a sleeping baby. It’s all good.

Seedy Sesame Almond Squares

Seedy Sesame Almond Squares

  • Yield: 15-18 squares
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins
  • Inactive time: 2 hrs
  • Total time: 2 hrs 50 mins

Using all tahini in these bars gives them serious sesame flavor, but if you’d prefer to use a different nut butter (almond or peanut), that would be great, too. And as with many granola and granola bar recipes, these are extremely adaptable so if you are not a fan of a few of the seeds or grains, just swap them out for something you have on hand. Chopped dried fruit or chocolate bits would be a dressy option; different nuts like pecans or walnuts would be great, too. Just keep the proportions of wet and dry ingredients the same, and you should be all set. An added bonus: these actually freeze brilliantly, too. Just wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze. They only take about an hour to thaw on the counter — perfect timing for a second breakfast.

Ingredients

3/4 cup (175 ml) tahini
1/2 cup (120ml) coconut oil, plus more for the pan
2/3 cup (160ml) brown rice syrup (check to be sure your brand is gluten-free if that's a concern)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups (200g) rolled oats
1/2 cup (100g) grams) raw millet
1/2 cup (90g) raw quinoa
1/4 cup (25 grams) rolled oats, finely ground, or 1/2 cup oat flour (use gluten-free oats if that's a concern)
1 1/2 cups (195g) chopped raw almonds
3/4 cup (90g) sunflower seeds
3/4 cup (90g) sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds (30g), whole or ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9×11 inch pan with coconut oil (or butter).

Mix the tahini, coconut oil, brown rice syrup and maple syrup together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, millet, quinoa, oat flour, almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, salt and cinnamon.

Pour the warm syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and mix well; I use my hands at this point to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Press the mixture into the prepared pan using the back of a rubber spatula. Bake the bars until the edges are just turning golden brown, about 28-32 minutes (the bars will feel a bit soft to the touch at this point which is ok; they firm up as they cool). Let them cool completely in pan before slicing, about 2 hours.

Once cool, slice into squares. Wrap the bars in plastic wrap for easy snacking or store, covered, at room temperature for up to 5 days. You can also freeze them (see headnote for instructions).

Comments

  1. Ashley

    Oh sweet friend, you have so much parenting wisdom already. There is no way to savor every moment and oh the guilt I felt trying to listen to those older woman who always told me to do so. Instead I inhaled deeply while smooshing my noes into the tops of their heads. I savored that moment. And I squished my fingers against their soft fingers and toes, savoring every little roll. There were so many moments I did savor and I look back on that season with fondness but life rolls along and now we're in another season to savor (not all of it, just some). The savoring is so much easier when you are taking time to care for yourself.
    Okay, enough rambling from me. I love watching you and Sam in this new role. I know it's so challenging to figure it out but from where I stand Oliver is so ridiculously lucky to be able to call you two mom and dad.

  2. Kasey

    I hear you on all the things. Space is soo necessary and trust me, you'll carve it out but you'll probably struggle with balance indefinitely (I do!). For me it helps to know that plenty of people have been through it before :) xoxo

  3. Anne

    Oh man, if you figure out the answers to those Big Questions, let me know...

    You know how they say that in a marriage you always fight about the same thing, just a different version of it? I never understood that till having kids. Sean and I don't bicker much, but when we do, it's about exactly this kind of stuff: work/life/balance/chores/attention/etc.etc. The 'trouble' is that as soon as you get it figured out, the kid changes and then you and your spouse to catch up. So flexibility and communication and kindness is key.

    Maybe someone else will weigh in with all the answers?! I HOPE SO!!!

  4. shanna mallon

    hahahaha I believe "savor every moment" is just a case of amnesia for the person saying it. The early days are so hard, impossible to remember how hard a friend said to me, and I already feel myself having a hard time remembering the first weeks or months. So I imagine someday I'll only remember all the sweet things my baby did and the sweet of his skin and yadda yadda but, I hope I also remember, when you're exhausted and tired and still healing, just surviving through a moment or two is okay. maybe new moms could use a little less "savor every moment" and a little more "you'll make it!" Anyway, you love your baby! you love each other! you'll make it.

  5. Jen

    Random question but which Middle Eastern grocery store do you recommend? I'm in Northish Seattle too so am hoping to discover a new find! Thanks.

    1. megang

      Jen: We go to Goody's and love it! It's definitely North Seattle, so maybe not far from you? ~Megan

  6. Mary

    You and Sam sound like wonderful parents - Oliver is so blessed to have you! I think that acknowledging the questions together is such an important thing - if you don't, resentment builds up so very quickly.

    I had so many well-meaning people tell me to savor my daughter when she was an infant (she turns one tomorrow!) who had no idea how horrible her colic was. I kind of wanted to punch them in the face...and try not to say that to new parents. ;o)

  7. erin

    I could write a novel in response to this post because all of it resonates so well but instead I'll do for both these bars and your parenting wisdom. <3

  8. Pam

    Amidst all the "savor the moment" comments, I had an older woman say to me "the days are long, the years are fast" and now with my 15 year old I know it's so true. Those early months couldn't have gone fast enough for me at the time! I remember so vividly feeling - what I could do if I only had two hands!!

  9. janice

    Not having kids, I'll stick to a food question. I love using tahini but am wondering if there is a way to avoid the struggle mixing the loose oil into it. Thanks!

    1. megang

      Janice: You know, it's always kind of a pain for me, too. I leave it room temperature for a bit before using. The quality of tahini does matter and help with this, too, to be honest. We use Tarazi brand which the guys at the Middle Eastern market recommend. I hope that helps a little ~Megan

  10. Lori

    Megan, I love reading these posts and being a voyeur in your life. Your honesty and sweet soul is so inspiring. Lori

  11. Ann

    New parenthood is ridiculously romanticized and I'm not exactly sure why it is. You go from 2 people to 3 people in a moment and all the work and hard won balance in the relationship of 2 people gets tossed overboard to meet the needs of the new person. Add exhaustion and responsibility like you have never experienced before and it's a quagmire of emotions.
    I've known heretofore stable relationships to crumble against the demands and the reality of an infant. Of course, the child is wanted and loved and enjoyed but OMG ... where did my / our life go !?! Why is this creature devouring everything !
    As a new mother, you feel like you and only you can keep the child alive. If you tend toward perfectionism, it's an even harder row to hoe. I spent the first 6 months wondering why nobody had told me what it was really like and if I was the only one that thought that way. It's hard. Very hard and I had the best possible guy as my partner.
    At 6 months, I exhaled. I'd kept my son alive. I do remember that as a turning point. He was sleeping more. We were sleeping more. Glimmers of a former life were emerging. Patterns and routines were becoming established.
    It was still work and compromise and rebalancing the dynamic of us into a dynamic of the three of us. It takes time and tears and all the years you had before the child arrived to survive with sanity and to ensure nobody holds resentment. I'm not sure at what point it happens for others but I think there comes a clear and notable day when you exhale and realize you've been holding your breath to keep your infant alive and you've done a damn good job. It gets easier then.
    Yes, the time goes fast but it's your time too. Wishing you all the time you need !

  12. tea_austen

    Older parents tell you to savor every moment because they wish they had--but they couldn't, because they were dealing with the totality of the experience, which makes savoring every moment impossible. Also, they don't remember the had stuff in detail. I am convinced of this.

    I saw your note on FB--I wouldn't say this is a parenting fail, just a readjustment. You made not-so-granola bars. You're doing great!

  13. Lindsay

    Loved this post. I have two kids and it's so hard sometimes but also so important to have "me" time and "me and hubby" time AND family time.

    If I don't have a 9x11 pan, what size can I use? I love tahini.

  14. Tara

    I've loved reading your posts on the early days of motherhood- it takes me back to just a few short years ago when we had our son. It was a pull between wanting to savor every moment of his newborn smell, tiny feet, soft coos yet yearning for the days when I could just walk out of the house and run to the store without giving anything a second thought. We definitely have found a nice balance even with two more kids added to the mix. The key for us is scheduling it. We schedule time for ourselves, time for each other, and time with the kids. And I can't wait to make these bars- I think my son and I will make them while his sisters naps this afternoon! In just a few short months you too will have a very enthusiastic kitchen helper!!

  15. Amy

    Yeah, I never tell parents "savor every moment!" Unless you're savoring the moments when you get to fall asleep for a few hours, or the moment when you leave the house for the first time without the baby for a quick starbucks run. I can remember the moments of handing my baby off to a friend at church dinner while I sat and happily ate a full meal.

  16. Allison

    I've enjoyed your blog for a long time. So glad to hear that you've found some parenting support. Parents and families are stronger when they share a strong community. Many families in Seattle find this support through PEPS. If you've benefited from PEPS, let your readers know and share this link www.peps.org to learn more about the organization and how you can support its important work.

    Allison - Seattle mom and member of the PEPS Board of Directors

    1. megang

      Hi, Alison: oh yes, we're in PEPS now and love it. Thanks for your comment. ~Megan

  17. CC

    Thanks for sharing so honestly...as a mom of 2 boys it gets easier and harder as they get older but there is something about that baby stage that is precious, allowing us to fall madly in love with this little person and try our hardest to raise ourselves into good parents. Someone posted that parenting is easier when you've taken time out for yourself, I completely agree and after almost 9 years of parenting I'm still learning that lesson, glad to hear you and Sam are taking these complexities to heart and working it out. Oh and your recipes sounds yummy.

  18. Anna

    I'm a pretty new parent myself (7 mo. & almost 2 yr. boys) and I don't have answers for you, but I think you're on the right track with the neighborhood group. In my (again, limited) experience parenting has brought my husband and I closer together in some ways, but further apart in others, and we've really relied on other friends and people in our community to be there for us individually, where once it may have felt more like we could meet *all* of each other's needs. Does that make sense? I think it's because a mom vs. dad's parenting experience really is different, maybe esp. at the beginning (pregnancy, nursing vs. the support role), plus because one of us is with the babies most times, so the socializing and fun stuff we each do tends to be with friends, i.e. taking turns me with my friends one evening and then him with his the next evening. Mutual / family friends stuff tends to happen during the day with kids along for the ride. It's actually been a great phase and speaking for myself at least, I have better and closer friendships than ever. And while I love love love my friends in all types of life situations I think it is so helpful to have friends who are going through similar experiences with babies the same age AND those who have older kids and can be role models. That's why I think you're on the right track with the neighborhood parenting group. Those will be amazing friendships. I definitely look forward to the day when it's easier to do fun things with my husband again, although we do get a fair amount of that too right now (an early bedtime for kiddos is KEY) - it's just at home in the evenings rather than out doing fun things like in our previous life. Anyway, that's more than you wanted to hear from a stranger (long time reader, first time commenter), but I can sympathize, and am sending love and good karma your way!!

    1. megang

      Hi, Anna! Thanks so much for the wonderful comment. Yes I think the parenting group has been really good for us, too. I definitely think we'll remain in touch with many of the couples there, and it's just nice to reflect on your week with other people in your situation. And I can relate to what you said about friendships, too: I've actually seen more of my friends and seen more of our city, really, since having Oliver because you really need an excuse to get out of the house and break up the day whereas before, I hunckered down and worked ... if I think about it too much, it bums me out a little bit that for me to get to see a friend or go out, Sam obviously has the baby (and vise versa) so we rarely have good, quality time together but YES TO EARLY BEDTIMES. I'm excited about this in the near future -- then at least we can look forward to evenings. In truth, this has already started to happen a little bit, but we're still putting Oliver down a bit on the later side (9 or 10). Excited for the days when this will be more like 7. Anyway, I'm so glad you enjoy the blog and have been a long time reader.That makes me happy! And it sounds like you're doing a pretty great job with your little ones. Have a wonderful week, ~Megan

  19. Lindsay

    Can I make this in a 9x13 pan? I don't have a 9x11 pan

    1. megang

      Hi, Lindsay-
      Sure thing. They'll obviously be a little thinner and they're going to cook more quickly, so check them periodically to see when those edges start to get golden brown. Good luck! ~Megan

  20. sam-c

    Hello- I've been hanging onto this post as 'unread' in my reader. I was planning to come back to it and comment that I really appreciate how you articulated those first few days, weeks, months of motherhood/ parenthood. (I don't even have the right words to say how nice it is to read this post !) Hope you are doing well and starting to feel comfortable in the new routines of a family of 3.

  21. sam-c

    ps, I like your comment above about spending even more time in the city. reminds me- now when I (rarely) get to the arboretum, it really takes me back- almost 8 years ago now, strolling around with a newborn.... surely I don't remember the parts where i got my butt wet- stopping to find someplace to nurse him what seemed like every 30 minutes!

  22. Carla

    My husbands birthday is this weekend and he avoids sugar (a little is ok) and white flour... Any ideas from your wonderful blog of what I can bake for him? Is there such a thing as a dark chocolate whole wheat brownie? ;)
    Thanks

    1. megang

      Hi, Carla! Oh yes, you could do a whole wheat brownie easily. I have this recipe on the blog: http://asweetspoonful.com/2015/10/rye-chocolate-brownies.html I recently made these with buckwheat flour and they were awesome. I've made them with spelt flour, too. I don't see why whole wheat flour wouldn't work, so I say go for it. I hope he likes them! ~Megan

  23. Carla

    Thank you so much Megan!

  24. Carla

    Megan,
    Made them today with whole wheat flour, they were perfect! Thanks!

  25. Lindsay

    Thank you for giving the weighted measurements for all the ingredients. Makes everything so much easier!

  26. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Big questions indeed. I think (at least I hope it works this way) that eventually our expectations of what a full day or a productive session looks like change. we forget the old days and dont compare to that anymore. Joan is 7 months next week (!!) and we're at a sweet stage where i can function on broken sleep + get things done + even start to get excited about the prospect of work again. I honestly havent been keen for a little distance from bubba since about now, and i think that related to the fact that I wasn't looking forward to the obligation of my old work. ive changed that now, ill be specialising in pre & post-natal nutrition (surprise surprise) and gosh what a relief! now I am starting to get excited for my future sessions and am craving those moments. and i think this is a good thing. self care is so important, I recently wrote about that on my blog. and these seedy squares are most certainly in the self-care category. Thank you for your recipes and your thoughts. Oliver is lucky to have such caring parents. oh & p.s. seeing them eat food, Megan, it's the BEST!

  27. Anne

    Yay PEPS! My kids are 13 and 17 now, and parenting changes a lot but never stops challenging all my abilities. I would say the first rule is don't feel guilty. You're savoring all you can, you're doing the best job you can, and the point is not to do it all perfectly but well enough. How will our kids learn to forgive their own imperfections if they don't see us treating ourselves with compassion? I'm a firm believer that what we model is more important than what we tell them. Be gentle with yourself, and know that is a gift to your child as well.

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Anne. I agree! The guilt thing starts early, doesn't it? Geesh. And yes, quite literally no way to do it all (or even most of it perfectly) ... last night when we were eating dinner, we were making quick burritos but were out of black beans and avocado and most things that really comprise a burrito. We ended up using chickpeas and pesto instead and both looked at each other and agreed, "it's not the best meal. But it's a meal." Sometimes that's an accomplishment too. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. ~Megan

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