As my old hiking boots hit the dirt, a smile came across my face. The smile widened as I spotted the enjoyment on my children’s faces. This was the first time all three Scholer children hiked together. And though I hated to admit it, it had been a few years since I had gone for a hike.

It was a beautiful day, warm enough to hike comfortably in shorts and T-shirts, but not so hot that my kids would be asking for the nearest swimming pool. We were at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal and even our toddler was eager to hike. She watched as her two siblings bound up the trail in search of the summit — and then moved at her own pace.

With her eyes much closer to the ground than the rest of us, she spotted all kinds of treasures. Each rock and insect was enough to keep her busy. It was a joy to see her enjoying the hike in her own way. The others stopped their fast ascent and came back to check on us.

We coaxed Madeline along with baby steps, all of us laughing and enjoying the great outdoors. After walking at her pace for a while, we urged her to ride on Daddy’s back in the carrier. He took some large running steps that had her giggling and enjoying the hike from another perspective.

When we reached the summit, we were fortunate to be there all by ourselves. The kids were proud of their accomplishment and ready for a snack. As I pulled some snacks and water from my pack, I had flashbacks to some hikes I’d taken in the White Mountains.

Some snacks, like granola bars, taste even better when eaten on a trail or at camp after a long day of hiking.

In recent years, I have spent more time reading labels before purchasing prepackaged food and found that many store-bought granola bars claim to be healthy but, in fact, contain high amounts of sugar and corn syrup.

After our recent hike, I searched my cookbooks for a healthy granola bar recipe I recalled seeing. I found it in “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics,” by Ina Garten.

It didn’t take long to make these bars and they tasted so much better than any snack that comes in a prepackaged wrapper. (To package your homemade snack, think about purchasing or making fabric sacks. We acquired some sacks from www.snacktaxi.com. It’s a great way to avoid using plastic sandwich bags and to save some money.)

Homemade granola bars

Ingredients:

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cup honey

1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup chopped pitted dates

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8- by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper. Set aside. Toss oatmeal, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add dates, apricots and cranberries; stir well. Pour mixture into the prepared dish. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the dish. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.


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