Hikes taken with HT are a little hardcore, always fast-paced and embody our “Hike the Hard Way” mentality. I like that, usually.
This weekend was different.
To my delight, my sis and some close girlfriends ventured ALL THE WAY out to the country from Manhattan and Brooklyn to celebrate my birthday with a girls-only hike on Saturday. For their lack of trail names, let’s call them (in order) Brooklyn, Blondie and Bells (Blue Bin Barbie fits right in!). No one made me the cake, above, but it does embody our day. Sweet and outdoorsy.
So they took the train to Peekskill (easy!), we awkwardly stopped at a really enthusiastic tea room in Peekskill for a pit stop and herbal tea (I had a bad cold) and headed toward a favorite hike HT had suggested up Storm King Mountain. The city girls wore sneakers and even outfitted in my trusty Merrells, we quickly deemed the trail too icy to be safe or fun.
We re-routed and decided to go for a sure-thing hike up Bear Mountain, just over the Bear Mountain Bridge in Bear Mountain State Park. The girls were impressed by the pretty buildings in the park and we all loved the smell of wood stove in the air as we passed the outdoor skating rink full of happy, chilly kids. I’d say the one drawback of this hike is that ANY time of year, they charge $8 per car for parking. As we were forking over the cash I remembered why HT and I usually park across the bridge along the road and walk to the park. C’est la vie, this time. At least there were public bathrooms.
The hike was nice. Most of it is actually stone stairs built into the hillside, making this a favorite hike for tourists, as it’s pretty predictable terrain. Here’s an account of the hike details.
Our attention this time, though, was on the treats. In my experience, any outing with a group of women includes packing along some munchies that are both indulgent and healthy. Enter…
Even Better Smitten Kitchen Granola Nuts (adapted by my sis, Bells)
The Smitten Kitchen recipe is great, but as Bells is a Gluten Free Gal these days, she makes a few substitutions and improvements, among them:
- Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Oats
- Add cocoa powder and omit cinnamon for alternate chocolate-coconut flavor (omg.)
- Pecans work best (most nooks and crannies), almonds taste great but mixture doesn’t stick as well
Ahh. We loved them and ate all that we brought along in my trusty pack. Luckily, I saved a secret container at home for myself.
THEN, I brought a homemade treat along too and it also went over very well. Thank you Chocolate-Covered Katie for another successful, delish, “healthified” dessert.
Betterfingers (a healthier Butterfinger. oh yeah.)
Here’s Katie’s recipe, as I made it. My changes in blue, as always.
- 1/4 cup agave
- 1 tbsp molasses (blackstrap for bars high in iron)
- 3 1/2 tbsp coconut palm sugar (I’m sure the flavor and crunch would have been even lighter if I’d gone with a lighter sugar)
- 1 cup peanut butter (creamy natural)
- 1 1/2 cups bran flakes (I’m convinced Katie used cornflakes in her recipe, as hers are so light in color)
- 1/8 tsp salt (plus a little extra if using unsalted peanut butter)
- topping: 2/3 cup chocolate chips, melted and drizzled (Next time, I’ll try her alternative of 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil mixed with 1/4 cup cocoa powder and liquid sweetener to taste, as I’m hooked on coconut oil lately)
Combine first three ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil on medium heat. Boil about a minute, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Add the peanut butter and salt, and stir until it makes a paste. Add the cereal and stir very well to coat, partially crushing the cereal flakes as you stir. Make sure the flakes are very evenly coated. Press into an 8×8 pan (I used a jelly roll pan and flattened the bars into a thinner bark)—either lined with wax or parchment paper, or greased very well—and freeze until completely hardened. Cut into bars while only somewhat frozen, or thaw the block a little before cutting. I broke them apart roughly like bark instead for a more rugged hiking vibe! If you wish to cover in chocolate, simply melt the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly until smooth, or mix the coconut oil with the sweetener and cocoa. Then spread over the bars with a spatula and re-freeze to harden. I put melted chocolate in a ziploc, cut the corner off and drizzled it over the bark instead, so each piece had a good amount of chocolate but was not completely covered. Store in the freezer for optimum “snap.” Makes 12-16 “betterfinger” bars or a full ziploc quart bag of bark!
Good treats make happy hikers!
Thanks B squad for the birthday love and “just getting outside” with me. XO